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On Tuesday 12 December, Solent University, Southampton celebrated their external communities in a special ceremony at the Solent Engage Awards 2023.

14th December 2023
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Hosted in The Spark, Solent’s state-of-the-art teaching and events building, the awards welcomed guests for an evening of recognition and networking in the heart of the city. Eight trophies were awarded to students, alumni, residents and professionals, highlighting the collaborative nature of the city’s communities in enriching student learning and experiences.

Building upon last year’s Business and Alumni Awards, the Solent Engage Awards celebrate the contribution of the University’s external communities, from offering apprenticeships and work experience, to mentoring opportunities and up-skilling for students.

The evening was hosted by Solent’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor James Knowles, who says: “As a civic university, based in the heart of our city, collaboration is central to everything we do. It is fantastic to have an opportunity to recognise the way local businesses, as well as our very own alumni, are positively enhancing the university experience.

“Southampton is a diverse city with a business community that is passionate about supporting the next generation of talent coming through Solent, and we are working collaboratively to equip our students with work-ready skills that help turn their aspirations into reality. Coming together at the Solent Engage Awards and recognising that support, as well as nurturing relationships across the city, has been a time for celebration and optimism for the future.”

The eight awards handed out on the night celebrate future leaders, mentoring, civic impact and regional entrepreneurship, among other categories. An expert judging panel, made up from four of Solent’s Independent Governors, selected the winners, with nominees put forward by Solent students and staff, as well as Southampton residents, ensuring those who have made a positive impact in the city receive the recognition they deserve.

Eastleigh Football Club took home the Employer Recruitment Award, celebrating years of collaboration with Solent University that has directly impacted students. The club offers learners the opportunity to practice and develop skills in a real-world environment, offering them creative freedom and resulting in employment opportunities. They say:

“As a local grassroots club, working with organisations like Solent University is key for us in growing our talent pool, both on and off the pitch. The club has benefited enormously from working with Solent and we are absolutely delighted that this has been recognised through these awards.”

The full list of awards and winners are:

  • Apprentice of the Year – Ellie Peplinski
  • Apprenticeship Employer of the Year – Solent NHS Trust
  • Business and Entrepreneurial Award – Ross Chapman
  • Civic Charter Impact Award – Southampton Winchester Visitors Group
  • Distinguished Mentoring Award – Susan Phillips
  • Employer Recruitment Award – Eastleigh Football Club
  • Future Leader Award – Daisy Jarvis – Warsash Maritime School
  • Solent Engage Award – Solent NHS Trust

Winner and graduate, Ross Chapman, says: “I am honoured to be awarded the Business and Entrepreneurial Award at this year’s event. Winning the award means so much as over the last few years I have been working to grow my business and this provides recognition for all that work. “

Ross excelled during his studies, working with live clients such as Southampton Football Club, Carnival Cruise Line and Solent NHS Trust. As a graduate, he has gone from strength to strength, setting up his own videography company and producing video content for clients around the world. On his time at university, he says:

“Studying at Solent provided me with a fantastic set of skills and knowledge, which I have since gone on to apply in running my own business. Thank you to everyone who has supported me in achieving this.”

Find out more about the winners below

Apprentice of the Year – Ellie Peplinski.

Ellie is part of the first wave of Registered Nurse Degree Apprenticeships at Solent University and has set an exceptional standard of learning for other apprentices. Ellie’s high standards showcase what can be achieved by a student and, when she completed her work placement, received exceptional feedback leading to a number of employment offers.

Apprenticeship Employer of the Year – Solent NHS Trust

Solent NHS Trust has a strong reputation for working with Solent University on upskilling their workforce. Most notably, this organisation has had six employees complete a Senior Leaders’ Apprenticeship and a number have gone on to achieve internal promotions, including the roles of Deputy Chief of Nursing and Chief Operating Officer.

Business and Entrepreneurial Award – Ross Chapman

Ross, a Solent University graduate, honed his entrepreneurial skills as an undergraduate, notably winning the Most Proactive Freelancer award at graduation for the work he did with real-world clients including Southampton Football Club, Carnival Cruise Line and Solent NHS Trust. Since graduating, Ross has produced video content around the world and set up multiple businesses, including a wedding videography company. Alongside his work as a talented freelancer, Ross leads the sales and marketing activity at a company and supports other start-ups get off the ground.

Civic Charter Impact Award – Southampton Winchester Visitors Group

Southampton Winchester Visitors Group has delivered numerous successful projects in collaboration with multiple departments across Solent University to support community groups in need. Their Health4Her and Health4Him projects have supported more than 40 refugees residing in Southampton with students delivering the project going on to secure employment in the NHS and professional sports clubs.

The winning organisation has also worked with Solent’s performing arts department to deliver a project aimed at giving hope to the local refugee and asylum seeker community, providing essential activities to do whilst waiting for approval on asylum claims. A creative arts day culminating in a theatrical performance was delivered allowing students to celebrate the diverse and global communities involved.

Distinguished Mentoring Award – Susan Phillips

Susan Phillips was nominated by their mentee, which the Solent Engage Awards judges noted as the highest validation of success. Susan goes above and beyond in her role as a mentor, supporting her mentee in finding voluntary positions to enhance their portfolio and providing constant encouragement to their mentee. In the words of Susan’s mentee, ‘their future mentees will be lucky to have her’.

Employer recruitment Award – Eastleigh Football Club

Eastleigh Football Club has collaborated with Solent University for a number of years, providing opportunities for students to practice and develop their skills in a real-world environment, offering great freedom to the students to be as creative as they wish. The benefits for students have been immense, creating a rich portfolio of work experience evidenced by the Head of Media at the Premier League, stating they invited a student for an interview as a direct result of the activities Eastleigh Football Club had provided.

Future Leader Award – Daisy Jarvis

Daisy has shown clear evidence of leadership qualities in her short career and is an obvious advocate of Solent University, providing talks at open days and corporate events. Daisy was awarded the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s ‘Officer Trainee of the Year 2022' in recognition of her diligence, professionalism, and resilience in college and at sea. She has also been highlighted for her extemporary attitude, demonstrating exceptional leadership among her peers.