Meet Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards Intermediate Apprentice of the Year Sasha Fraser

The inaugural Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards recognised the best talent in the county with a special presentation evening on Wednesday 8th March 2017 at the Marlborough Enterprise Centre in Woodstock, during the 10th National Apprenticeship Week.

The Intermediate Apprentice of the Year Award was won by Sasha Fraser, who has completed a Horticulture Apprenticeship with Oxford City Council Parks Department in August 2016 and now works in the team as a Countryside Ranger.

Sasha decided to become an Apprentice Gardener after spotting the opportunity online and looking back fondly at her years in gardening club at primary school. She says: “I always knew that I didn’t want to stay on at school, even though I was academic. I thought I might as well have a go at something that I might enjoy, so I gave it a go and I lucked out!”

Sasha began her Apprenticeship learning the skills and competencies required to maintain the City Council’s parks and gardens. This involved a variety of horticulture tasks such as planting, mowing, pruning and machine maintenance. In addition to the usual tasks, Sasha also had the opportunity to put into practice the skills she gained from working in a physically challenging environment.

Sasha says: “My duties as an Apprentice Gardener were primarily to support the teams I was working with, which could see me digging graves, mowing bowling greens, strimming around play equipment, feeding the birds in the park's aviary, felling avenues of trees and so much more!”

“My Apprenticeship not only taught me a monumental amount about an industry I previously knew nothing about, but it has given me more confidence in myself than I could ever have asked for and introduced me to so many knowledgeable and fantastic people.”

See Sasha talking about her Apprenticeship in this Oxford City Council Apprenticeships video (at 1:43 mins).  


From strength to strength

Sasha developed her skills and experience through undertaking a variety of roles in different teams within the Parks Department, including hard landscaping with the Highways Team and a specialised secondment to the Arboriculture Team where she further developed her interest in the care of the environment.

Sasha’s manager, Trevor Jackson, Cemeteries Manager and Registrar at Oxford City Council, says: "Sasha is the best Apprentice we have ever had! Seeing her develop from a 16-year-old school leaver to an accomplished horticulturalist is a source of much satisfaction for all of us at the Council. Now she's driving a 4x4 and a Landrover Defender!”

Sasha is the first female gardener for many years in the Parks Department, a traditionally male occupation. She is a fantastic role model to other young women, her drive, enthusiasm and passion making her a natural ambassador for Apprenticeships.

During her Apprenticeship, Sasha represented Apprentices on focus groups where Directors were considering future employment issues, met groups of young people who were considering a career with the Council and gave up her time in the evening to talk to prospective candidates during recruitment campaigns.

Award-winning Sasha

Sasha’s fantastic achievements have been recognised locally - when she won the Freemen of Oxford Apprentice of the Year Award in Horticulture – and nationally, when she was crowned the Association of Public Sector Excellence (APSE) Horticulture Apprentice of the Year. She can now add the inaugural Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Awards Intermediate Apprentice of the Year title to her trophy cabinet!

The Award was sponsored by Barclays, who chose Sasha as their winner from amongst a very large and strong field of entrants.

Trevor French, Head of Corporate and Business Banking for Barclays Thames Valley, explains why they chose Sasha as their winner. He says: “Sasha has a number of significant achievements and has been recognised for these both locally and nationally. She has made great progress in many different roles and consistently has taken on additional challenges and responsibility - including undertaking specialist secondments - and always surpasses expectations. She has shown tremendous tenacity and determination to overcome challenges and is the first female Apprentice Gardener for many years. She is an advocate for Apprenticeships and has encouraged and motivated her peers to join schemes.”

Sasha’s words of advice…

“I couldn't recommend this route more for anyone looking to start a career in a chosen industry, regardless of academic achievements! During an Apprenticeship you will not only have the chance to earn money whilst learning new skills for a career, but you will meet many new people with ranges of different skills which you will learn to appreciate that you can learn from, whilst being treated like an adult, slowly gaining confidence in being independent as you grow in life and your career!

“Applying for an Apprenticeship is entirely an individual’s choice and there is no need to be pushed into staying in education if you are questioning it. Apprenticeships give you opportunities like no other to find something you are good at in a successful environment and will be one of the best choices you can make!”

Sasha was featured in an article in The Oxford Mail this month along with this fantastic pic of her hard at work!