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The University of Southampton

Chemistry student named a Rising Star in Make UK Manufacturing Awards

Published: 24 March 2020
Chemistry student award
Natasha Nichols collects her regional Rising Star Award.

University of Southampton student Natasha Nichols has been presented a Rising Star Award as a regional Engineering Apprentice of the Year in the Make UK Manufacturing Awards.

The first year BSc Chemistry student was awarded the southern region accolade for a long-running partnership with manufacturing firm Superior Seals.

Natasha is undertaking a degree apprenticeship programme with the Dorset business which is dividing her time between industry and her studies.

The regional award success entitled Natasha to join the best in British manufacturing as a national finalist at the Make UK Manufacturing Awards in East Wintergarden, Canary Wharf, on 29 January.

She was one of 14 apprentices from across the country to be recognised for outstanding contributions and promising futures, alongside a further 17 business prizes presented across six categories. The national Rising Star engineering title was claimed by BAE Systems Submarines’ Denize Ivy Pilarta.

“There was a very high standard of applicants so I wasn’t expecting to win,” Natasha says. “This has reinforced my decisions about my career path and I am excited to see where my career could take me in the future, strengthened by a degree at Southampton. For me, this also shows that the combination of university and work can create a strong workforce for the future of manufacturing in the UK. “

The Make UK Engineering Apprentice of the Year Rising Star awards are presented to students that have done the most to seize the training and development opportunities during the early years of an engineering apprenticeship programme.

Natasha’s relationship with Superior Seals started with a work experience placement in 2016, which led to a formal apprenticeship following her A-Levels in September 2017.

She has completed two years of a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) and Higher National Certificate (HNC) in sponsored part-time studies while rotating through different departments at the company. More recently, she has gained experience in the material science and production departments.

Natasha was named Superior Seals Apprentice of the Year in 2019, when she also chose to further expand her chemical knowledge with a full-time degree at Southampton.

“I chose Southampton because it is one of the best universities for my chosen course,” she says. “This has been the first time I have been able to concentrate all my attention purely on chemistry, which I absolutely love.”

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