For the 11th year running, the glamorous surroundings of Claridge's was the venue for the National Student Awards Best of Best Dinner, on 20th September. Nearly 200 guests came to applaud the 13 national Awards finalists and find out who had won the 2017 trophy.
First though, everyone enjoyed a lively champagne reception and the opportunity to catch up with old friends, plus a little networking to make new ones. We moved through to the Ballroom for dinner, when WiP National Chairman Brenda Jones introduced the student finalists and thanked the Universities for their participation, asking them all to stand up to be recognised. Thanks too to the three national sponsors, Bouygues (UK) Ltd, Cushman & Wakefield and Linden Homes and all the regional sponsors.
Claridge's always prepare the most wonderful food and this year was no exception, with Smoked Rare Beef Salad with Celeriac Remoulade, Tempura Cod with Warm Tartare Sauce, and Dark Chocolate Truffle Cake with Barley malt ice cream on the menu.
The speeches were thought provoking and inspiring. Brenda said, "Today, the property and construction industry is at the forefront of solving many of the problems that society faces. We are developing buildings that are highly energy efficient. We design infrastructure that can withstand climate change. And we are using digital technology to make the design and construction process more efficient."
She then gave her views on how the industry should attract the best talent, improve diversity and nurture new entrants to have successful long-term careers.
Alison Nimmo CBE, Chief Executive of The Crown Estate, gave the keynote address. She said that, when she graduated, she expected the world to be equal but reminded us that, even now, across the world, women represent less than 13% in parliaments and that, in the FTSE 100 there are just six female chief executives…yet seven men called David running businesses in the UK.
She credited those leaders who are transforming their businesses to make change, particularly those who were in the room, encouraging a round of applause.
Speaking directly to the students but striking a chord with everyone, she said, "Own your own career - too many women underestimate their own talent; be the leader you wish you had, building diverse teams around you; and remember that life begins outside your comfort zone, boundaries are there to be pushed."
After the speeches, Brenda Jones, with national sponsors Carole Ditty from Bouygues, David Haynes from Cushman & Wakefield and Tom Nicholson from Linden Homes and WiP Awards Ambassador Lorna Brown, took to the stage to announce the 2017 national winner.
This year congratulations go to Civil Engineering student, Caitlin Mitchell, who studies Civil and Coastal Engineering at Plymouth University.
Caitlin was described by the judges as "Having great enthusiasm and vibrancy. She has a strong, dynamic personality, is very engaged and knowledgeable about the industry, she will be a superb ambassador for young women in the industry."
Caitlin's first job as national winner was to draw the raffle to win a stunning piece of jewellery from designer Victoria Sackwild.
Harri John from Cushman & Wakefield, who was the 2015 National Student Awards winner, was lucky enough to have the winning ticket.
Well done to Caitlin and to the 12 other finalists all of whom did so well to reach the Final.