A pioneering scheme for 15 to 18-year-olds who have learning problems or who have had bad experiences at school was one of more than 100 to get a National Training Award this week.
Rathbone CI, the national charity and training provider for people with special educational needs, devised the project for young people, who may have been excluded from school or who were poor attenders.
The Government-backed awards have become the training equivalent of the Queen's Award for Industry setting the national marker for excellence.
The Rathbone project involves a supported placement with a local employer. Initially the placement is one day a week in a chosen occupational area, including retailing, child care and catering. For the rest of the week the young person continues school. The project has been successful in helping young people continue their academic work and builds their confidence and communication skills.
Anne Weinstock, chief executive of Rathbone CI, said: "The recent Dearing report emphasised the importance of work placements and our success with the vocational education project demonstrates our commitment to provide realistic, work-based training. We are delighted by our award, which will allow us to extend our national training."
The winners received their awards from Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Education and Employment, in London this week.
City College, Manchester was another winner after developing an equality training programme for Oldham Borough Council's housing department after a controversial investigation by the Commission for Racial Equality. The college's training programme familiarised staff with the Race Relations Act and its relevance to housing management and helped to examine racial stereotypes. The programme means staff actively promote equality in housing services to all ethnic minorities.
Andrew Forbes, senior equal opportunities lecturer, said: "As far as I'm aware we are the first to win a national award for race relations training. We see it as a reward for 10 years' work developing top quality equal opportunities courses for a whole range of organisations such as Greater Manchester Police and Merseyside Benefits Agency."
The awards have been won by a large variety of organisations including colleges, TECs, private companies, charities and career services.
Hull College, which won an award two years ago, has won again for a project which aims to raise the profile of the construction industry and and attract young people into a future career. It has fostered close links with schools and more than 300 pupils are currently undertaking vocational qualifications, studying the Built Environment. This gives them a head start when they embark on post-school education and training.
Mike Berry, head of building and civil engineering, said: "Looking at the construction process allows for a whole range of subjects, including science, geography, maths, design and local history, to be introduced in a meaningful way. The initiative has been successful in changing attitudes towards the construction industry which today offers career opportunities for boys and girls of all abilities."