A St Austell businessman who left school with no GCSEs to set up his own business was ‘highly commended’ at a glitzy London awards ceremony last night, held at the Grosvenor House Hotel.
Tony Luke, now 18, set up Tony’s Interiors, The Market House, St Austell aged just 15, and was one of only four finalists in the Skillsmart Retail Apprentice of the Year Award. Tony was nominated for the award by his Cornwall College Business (CCB) Liaison Officer Chris White.
Theo Paphitis, business tycoon and judge on the BBC show Dragons Den presented the award at the Retail Week ‘Rising Stars’ ceremony and commended Tony on his enthusiasm and entrepreneurial skills.
Tony was over the moon to be highly commended, saying: “This feels amazing. The Apprenticeship helped me so much and to be commended for how I worked is brilliant. Before I hid in the background but the course brought me forward, now I’m mingling with customers and inspiring others to do the course.”
Theo Paphitis reinforced the importance of the programme when presenting the award, saying: “There’s no question that retail is a fantastic career, but like all careers it needs professionalism and there’s no better method of training somebody than through a Retail Apprenticeship.”
Tony is just one of thousands of people in the UK who take up the Retail Apprenticeship programme every year, giving them on-the-job retail knowledge as well as key skills such as communication and numeracy. CCB provided Tony with his training, and as the largest apprenticeship provider in Cornwall, CCB offers over 70 different apprenticeships. Despite leaving school early, he always said that he would go back into education should the opportunity arise. The Retail Apprenticeship helped him to do this through learning whilst working.
Chris White, CCB Liaison Officer, said: “Tony has exceeded all of our expectations, and as his knowledge and confidence has grown during the Apprenticeship, so has the success of his business.”
John Latham, Principal, Cornwall College, also extended his congratulations: “I am delighted to be able to congratulate Tony on his achievements, both at the awards and for his business. Tony has again proven the importance of Apprenticeships as a way of young people gaining the skills they need to have a successful career.”
Tony reinforced how the Apprenticeship had helped him in all areas of the business and was helping him as he plans to move to the town centre. He said: “It has made me more skilled and increased my knowledge. This has increase sales, and thereby profit, and prepared me for trading in a high street location.”
“My success on the Apprenticeship scheme and in business proves that this route is ideal for those who leave school, work in retail and think their academic opportunities for achievement are over,” he added.
Neil Moss, Apprenticeships Manager at Skillsmart Retail, which manages Retail Apprenticeships in the UK, said: “Tony’s success in business is incredible considering his age, and his ambition and drive has certainly shined through when taking the Apprenticeship too. He has shown incredible determination and I am delighted that he was highly commended.”
Anyone interested in an apprenticeship can visit www.ccb.cornwall.ac.uk for more information or call 0800 731 7594. For information about retail apprenticeships, visit www.skillsmartretail.com/careers, www.apprenticeships.gov.uk or speak to their employer.