Two University Technical College (UTC) students from the West Midlands were today presented with special awards by the Duke of York at St James’s Palace.

James Gratton (18) and Danish Akram (18), who both attended The JCB Academy in Rocester, Staffordshire, received the Duke of York Award for Outstanding Achievement today. This Award is given in addition to Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards and recognises those who have performed over and above the required criteria. James, from Stoke on Trent, was rewarded for his drive, commitment and technical curiosity well in advance of his years, including work experience placements at Rolls Royce, Network Rail, Atkins and the JCB Plant and top grades in engineering, maths and physics. This special award was sponsored by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. James says “My advice to any student interested in engineering or business would be – go to a University Technical College. You mix different types of learning, both the theory and the practice, and work on a whole variety of applied projects. You have to put a lot in – but you get a lot out!” His achievements have also been recognised through winning a scholarship with Boeing to read for an M.Eng in Engineering and Mechatronics.

Danish, from Derby, is currently studying automotive engineering at Sheffield Hallam University but initially had no clear ambitions for his future. “I had no plans to go to college, let alone university,” he said. “But JCB Academy turned out to be a fantastic opportunity. Students work alongside people who’ve been in industry for 20 or 30 years. They give you so much support and encouragement and little by little, I started to have more confidence in myself.” Both Danish’s teachers and the judges were impressed with his courage and self-discipline to work tirelessly to achieve his goal. Danish’s award was sponsored by an anonymous donor.

The Awards were launched in July 2013 and this is the second year that the Duke of York recognised students of UTCs with Bronze, Silver or Gold awards. A total of 109 students were recipients today*. HRH, The Duke of York, KG presenting the Awards, told the students: “If we want to be a prosperous country in the twenty-first century it’s self evident you have to invest in the skills of young people. We need to give you the best start we can. That’s why I am supporting what UTCs are doing. “This route you have chosen is going to give you more capability and advantage. Congratulations, I wish you every continued success in your future careers.”

Lord Baker, Chairman of Baker Dearing Educational Trust, the organisation behind UTCs, said: “The Duke of York Technical Awards is a wonderful way to celebrate the achievements of young people who choose technical education. “UTCs offer them clear pathways to jobs, apprenticeships and further study. The success of the students here today demonstrates how they are already putting this into action and are on their way to creating bright futures for themselves.”

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