APPRENTICES at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory struck gold when they were presented with awards for their achievements.

Olympic rower Mark Hunter was guest of honour at a ceremony to reward the trainees based at the Harwell site.

Liam Starrett won three titles, including the Recognition Award for helping others, in addition to completing his own apprenticeship.

He switched careers from being a self-employed carpenter, a job he held for 10 years, to follow a long ambition of becoming involved in electronics.

Mr Starrett, 29, who will stay on at Rutherford in the technology department, said: “The apprenticeship scheme has given me the opportunity to change career and I have not looked back since.”

The Apprentice of the Year award went to Lauren Summers, 23, who spent her apprenticeship in Rutherford’s Space division and has now secured herself a job there.

The other winners were Richard Surtell, 21, and Rob Filer, 22.

Mr Hunter, who followed up a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics with silver at London 2012, trained as an apprentice himself.

He said: “I’ve got a close link with apprenticeships – I did one as a kid and understand the benefits and the opportunities they give people.”

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) which runs Rutherford currently has 24 apprentices with each doing a four-year course of paid training in electronic, electrical and mechanical engineering.

Between six and ten places are made available each year with 70 per cent of the apprentices still working there.