Pictured at the Apprentice of the Year awards are Pat O’Doherty, NAA Chair; Hospitality & Healthcare category winner, Grace Nagle (University Hospital Tipperary) with her award, and NAO Director, Mary Liz Trant.

Tipp’s award-winning apprentice

Grace Nagle, a commis chef hailing from Clonmel, has won a top category award at the 2023 national ‘Apprentice Of The Year’ awards.

Grace is one of 14 exceptional apprentices awarded a prestigious award from the National Apprenticeship Office, which saw a record number of 222 exceptional apprentices nominated for an award across the island of Ireland. Each of the 14 winners was awarded for their exceptional leadership, creativity, teamwork, and problem-solving skills which are prime attributes of a modern-day apprentice.

Lanesboro in Co Longford native Hazel Johnston was announced as the overall winner of the national ‘Apprentice of the Year’ title for 2023. Studying at Munster Technological University, Hazel is a Manufacturing Engineering apprentice with DePuy Synthes Cork and stands as the first-ever female ‘Apprentice of the Year’.

Commenting on her category award win, Grace said: “I am honoured to be nominated for this award, and so delighted to have won the award, I cannot believe it. I am thankful to my tutor, Fergal Phelan for encouraging me to take on this apprenticeship at this point in my career. I feel that this course has given me confidence in myself and in my pastry skills - and allowed me to explore new avenues within the hospitality sector and build a rewarding career.”

A spokesperson for Grace’s employer, Tipperary University Hospital, said: “Grace is a leader, whether she believes it or not. She always makes sure everyone is well prepared for class and our exams and wants everyone to succeed and to be comfortable with what they are doing. Grace is hardworking, empathetic, and a great communicator. When she is given a task, she takes charge and gets the job done swiftly and efficiently. She has embraced her creativity, and everything she has learned throughout the course and often takes it upon herself to practice at home, especially anything to do with pastry.”

Minister Simon Harris said: “Congratulations to Hazel, Grace and all apprentices. I especially want to congratulate Hazel on her fantastic achievement. As a Department, we are working hard to increase the number of females taking up apprenticeships and, while it is heartening to see the numbers increase every year, we know much more needs to be done. Hazel, Grace and the many other female apprentices pursuing their dream careers across Ireland should act as an inspiration to others considering the path they want to take in life.”

A spokesperson for Tipperary ETB said: “Amazing news for Tipperary ETB Commis Chef Apprentice, Grace Nagel who was awarded the Hospitality ‘Apprentice of the Year’ award! What an absolutely fantastic achievement, all at Tipperary ETB are thrilled for Grace, and her instructor Fergal Phelan.”

Dr Mary Liz Trant, Director of the National Apprenticeship Office, added: “Apprentices are transforming the landscape of Ireland’s skilled workforce, bringing exceptional creativity and innovation, adaptability, leadership, fresh perspectives and a steadfast eagerness to learn that makes them valuable additions to any industry or workforce. The ‘Apprentice of the Year’ awards not only celebrate the apprentices nominated but also the power and impact of apprenticeship as a mode of learning and career development. The ongoing focus on continuous improvement within the apprenticeship system enables businesses to share their knowledge and expertise with upcoming talented apprentices.”