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Minister Harris congratulates first ever female winner of Apprentice of the Year

Minister Harris congratulates first ever female winner of Apprentice of the Year

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD has congratulated the first ever female winner of the Apprentice of the Year. 

Hazel Johnston, a Manufacturing Engineer apprentice with DePuy Synthes, won the award at the Mansion House last night.

Hazel is an apprentice from Cork and studies at the Cork Education and Training Board’s Bishopstown campus.

Speaking today, Minister Harris said:

“I want to warmly congratulate all the nominees and winners at last night’s awards, and thank them for all their hard work and commitment to their apprenticeship. 

“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, 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.” 

More than 220 apprentice award nominees attended the event last night, with 14 finalists from eight different industry categories collecting awards. 

Minister Harris added:

“I also want to take this opportunity to tell the employers, and educators that their support is not taken for granted, and we know that without it none of the celebrations last night would have been possible.” 

Dr Mary Liz Trant, Director of the National Apprenticeship Office, said:

“We were delighted to celebrate with the nominees this year, the award winners and the overall 2023 national ‘Apprentice of the Year’ Hazel Johnson, our first-ever female Apprentice Of The Year.

"Apprentices are transforming the landscape of Ireland’s skilled workforce, bringing exceptional diversity, creativity and innovation into their industry and workplace.” 

“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 of all ages and backgrounds.” 

As part of Budget 2024, an additional core €67 million investment will help to grow the apprenticeship system, and in particular will allow craft apprenticeship to move from providing 13,000 places in 2022 to over 16,000 places in 2024, and reduce the length of time an apprentice waits for training. 


The 14 finalists – across apprenticeship categories including Hospitality, Food and Healthcare, Hairdressing, Finance and Insurance, ICT, Property Services, Recruitment and Sales, Manufacturing Engineering, Biopharma, Logistics and Motor, Electrical and Construction were: 

  • Grace Nagle, undertaking a Commis Chef apprenticeship with University Hospital Tipperary (HSE Southeast) 
  • Paul King, undergoing an ICT apprenticeship with Google Ireland 
  • Laoibhse O Malley, undertaking a hairdressing apprenticeship with Bridget Haren Hair and Beauty, County Clare 
  • Leah Carrol Byrne, undertaking a hairdressing apprenticeship with Vanilla Hair Design, County Carlow 
  • Lisa O’Sullivan, undertaking an Auctioneering & Property Services apprenticeship, with DNG Ella Dunphy, County Kilkenny 
  • Shakeel Jeeroburkan, undertaking an apprenticeship in Finance with Fidelity International, Dublin 
  • Ronan Dunne, undertaking a transport operations and commercial driving apprenticeship with Polar Ice Ltd, County Offaly 
  • Kelsey McGahan, undertaking a logistics apprenticeship with Joe McGovern Transport, County Leitrim 
  • Kerrie Anne Fitzgerald, undertaking an electrical apprenticeship with Freefoam Building Products/, County Cork 
  • Gary Whelan, undertaking an electrical instrumentation apprenticeship with Diageo Ireland, Dublin 
  • Glenn Dermody, undertaking an electronic security systems apprenticeship with Xenon Building Technology, County Carlow 
  • Nicholas Davis, undertaking an electrical apprenticeship ESB Networks, County Cork 
  • Jamie Bermingham, undertaking a plumbing apprenticeship with Jones Engineering (H A O Neill), County Dublin 
  • Hazel Johnston, undertaking a Manufacturing Engineering apprenticeship with DePuy Synthes, County Cork