Student Zara Dupont collecting the Governors’ Award from sponsor Paul Donnelly, Managing Director of Marlborough Brickwork Ltd. (photo credit: Phil Jackson)

Outstanding student achievements was celebrated with the return of the annual Leeds College of Building ‘BIG (Building Industry Greats) Awards’ night.

Taking place for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, the poignant award ceremony recognised the successes of students and apprentices over the 2021/2022 academic year.

Winners were selected not only for their academic achievements but also for going the “extra mile,” overcoming adversity, and excelling in studies or national competitions.

Following a drinks reception and dinner at Leeds United Football Club’s Centenary Pavilion at Elland Road, guests were welcomed by Mark Roper, Vice Chair of the Leeds College of Building Corporation, and new College CEO & Principal Nikki Davis.


Given the nature of the occasion – celebrating young people’s success – the event went ahead but with a two-minute silence for guest reflection and as a tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Awards host and TV and radio broadcaster Rich Williams then announced the 50 awards, including the top prize – the Governors’ Award – chosen out of all the winners.

In total, 17 organisations supported the evening, including headline sponsor Marlborough Brickwork Ltd. Awards included Outstanding Improvement Award, BTEC Student of the Year, Sustainable Building Services Student of the Year, Faculty Awards for Special Achievement, and other trade-specific awards.

The overall Governors’ Award, sponsored by Marlborough Brickwork Ltd., went to student Zara Dupont (18) who won the ‘Plastering/Interior Systems Student of the Year’ award sponsored by Sparta Systems Ltd earlier in the evening.

Zara, from Bramley, has an exceptional track record of success. She completed a Level 2 Technical Certificate in Plastering at the College and is now starting an Interior Systems/Dry Lining Apprenticeship with Sparta Systems Ltd. Zara reached the WorldSkills UK final in 2021 and was shortlisted again in 2022. She will compete in the Plastering & Drywall category at the finals taking place in Edinburgh in November.

Zara said:
“Winning the Governors’ Award was a complete surprise. I didn’t even know there was an overall winner, so hearing my name at the end was a really nice surprise! I just don’t have the words. It’s been two years of hard work so far and I’m excited about my new apprenticeship.

“I’ve had a great experience at Leeds College of Building and am thankful for the training I’ve received. My tutor, Mark, has always been my go-to person – he’s always helpful and supportive. I’m excited about competing in WorldSkills again. Last year was like a practice run, so this time it’s the real thing and I’m in it to win!”

Nikki Davis, CEO & Principal of Leeds College of Building, said:
“Congratulations to all our students receiving awards. It’s wonderful to see the return of The BIG Awards and to celebrate the incredible achievements of our students, often under challenging circumstances. Their resilience over the last few years has been commendable, and I wish them every success going forwards. Thanks also to our amazing staff who go above and beyond in supporting all our learners daily.

“I would also like to thank our awards sponsors and emphasise how grateful we are for this unwavering support. These excellent links with the construction and built environment industry are vital for our students who benefit from bespoke training materials, specialist tools, and critical hands-on work experience opportunities provided by our partner employers.”