WITH just four days before nominations close, employers and trainees are being urged to enter the Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards.

Organisers have experienced a “last-minute flurry” of entries and are expecting more before Monday’s deadline.

The scheme includes eight categories and is open to anyone who lives or works in Oxfordshire.

Winners will be announced on March 8, during a ceremony at the Marlborough Enterprise Centre in Woodstock.

Four categories cover Intermediate, Advanced, Higher and Special Recognition for an apprentice who has overcome significant challenges or barriers to learning or work.

An overall Oxfordshire Apprentice of the Year will be chosen from winners.

And School and Training Provider gongs will recognise the importance of their role in apprenticeships.

The competition is run by Oxfordshire Apprenticeships, which is part of Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

Oxfordshire Apprenticeships founder and now advisor, Paddy Patterson said: “We have built up a good track record with Oxfordshire businesses.

“But Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards is about the apprentices themselves, because they are the best advertisement for getting other people excited about apprenticeships.”

Mr Patterson, who is also director of training agency The Apprenticeship & Training Company, added: “It’s also about recognising the contribution apprentices make to Oxfordshire’s economy and raising awareness of the variety of apprenticeships out there.”

Long Hanborough-based electrical engineering firm Darke & Taylor is the main sponsor.

Commercial director Simon Newton, who is on the awards committee, said: “Apprenticeships are a very important part of our business and we want to help celebrate the success of the many apprentices that bring such a benefit to Oxfordshire businesses.”

Mat Thomas, 18, from Kidlington is in the third year of a four-year electrical engineering apprenticeship with Darke & Taylor.

As an Oxfordshire Apprentice ambassador, he goes into schools to encourage others .

He said: “I talk to students just about to do GCSEs and let them know there are other ways, if you don’t think sixth form or uni is the right thing for you.

“I don’t like sitting inside and have always liked working with my hands.”

Other sponsors are electrical contractors Clarkson Evans, The Apprenticeship & Training Co, High Spec Composites, Barclays and Specsavers. To nominate or enter, see oxfordshireapprenticeships.co.uk/content/awards