The NEAA Annual Awards provide clear evidence as to the world class status of the region’s automotive supply chain as it honours the brightest talent and outstanding achievements of companies and future leaders shaping the North East automotive industry.

In recognition of the transformational change in staff development, wellbeing and community involvement, Sunderland-based, Faltec Europe, won Employer of the Year at the North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) Annual Awards 2024.

The company, which produces metal and plastic trim products and employs 320 staff, also received £2,000 which it will donate to a school of its choice with an emphasis on teaching pupils coding. In total, the award winners of all categories will give £16,500 to future talent, schools and STEM related programmes.

Hosted by national journalist and campaigner, Charlie Charlton, 300 guests were taken through eight categories, with Vantec Europe having double success in the Digital Transformation and Outstanding Contribution categories, the latter of which went to its managing director, Martin Kendall. It will donate £4,000 to Washington Academy.

The awards celebrated future talent, inspirational leaders and forward-thinking businesses who are cementing their position within the automotive industry.

Since the launch of the awards in 2018, over £76,000 has been made available to support future talent and local schools to help inspire the next generation of future leaders and engineers.

Geoff Ford MBE Apprentice Award Winner Megan Gorman, Junior Engineer, Unipres (UK)

Megan is the first female apprentice in Unipres UK’s 37-year history to secure a Junior Engineer role. It has not been an easy journey but Megan has overcome all obstacles in her way.

Megan has proven academically and practically that she is more than capable of succeeding in this industry, whether that is as part of a team or on her own. To apply for and get the promotion to her Junior Engineer role is a phenomenal achievement and one that Unipres will never forget.

Megan, said: “I’m absolutely over the moon about winning apprentice of the year because I never thought I would win this. I’m really proud of myself.

“A massive thank you to Unipres for putting me through my apprenticeship, my HNC and pushing me to where I am today.”

Graduate Award Winner Nathan Tshibuyi, Graduate Engineer, Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK

Nathan has exceeded all expectations within his first year in industry. He has been able to quickly adapt to life outside of University and is always keen and willing to further develop upon his knowledge and experience. Within the Quality Assurance team, there is a big push towards digital innovation. Nathan has been at the forefront of this team’s set-up and the future strategy that will be deployed to ensure that it is a success and sustainable. He has taken it upon himself to upskill in areas which will support the future development of this team and will be a central figure moving forward.

Nathaniel, said: “Winning the award means a lot, but it is not just for me, it is for my mentor, my senior and my team, because there has been a lot of collective effort put in to develop my ability so that we can get to this point.

“I’m really happy and I want to say a big thank you.”

Outstanding Achievement Award Winner Martin Kendall, Managing Director, Vantec Europe

Martin, said: “I was very surprised and humbled but delighted to receive the Outstanding Contribution Award. I have had an amazing career in the advanced manufacturing, automotive and logistics industry having started at Ford Aerospace in Tyne Dock, followed by 16 years at Nissan, and 22 years, and counting, at Vantec Europe Limited.

“For me, it’s always been about the people at Vantec Europe, at every level from the shop floor, our apprentices, through to senior management; making sure we can deliver what our partners require. I’m a forklift truck driver by trade and very proud of it, every single person is important, and I’m passionate about getting the right people with the right attitude into the sector; they are the ones going to make a difference in the future.”

Employer of the Year Award Winner Faltec Europe

Bruce Mair, human resources and general affairs manager, at Faltec Europe, said: “We already had a very high retention rate, with the average length of service standing at 12.5 years. However, we wanted to be a better employer, to put real focus on the most important area of our business – our people. The senior management team was absolutely committed to taking our engagement with colleagues to a much higher level and be a stand-out, Tier 1, employer.

“The platform for this was consultation, every step of the way, with colleagues to establish core values – integrity, innovation, collaboration, respect and resilience – that we all signed up to and which guide every interaction we have with colleagues, suppliers, customers and wider stakeholders.

“To really show how important our colleagues are, the management team also recognised the importance of recognition, reward, respect, team resilience and high-quality engagement.

“We believe that getting better never stops and that we are on a journey of continuous improvement, in the knowledge that whilst there is still much to do but we have transformed our business and our people.”

SME of the Year Award Winner CMYK Digital Solutions Limited

CMYK is an end-to-end Managed IT Services Provider, specialising in delivering IT Services and Support, Cloud, Telecoms, Connectivity, Managed Print and Visitor Management Solutions. With six offices across the UK, the company is focused on delivering and supporting clients with their technology needs. CMYK’s solutions help businesses in the automotive sector increase security, reduce waste, improve service levels, be more environmentally friendly and increase health and safety.

CMYK, said: “We are delighted to have won this award. Most importantly, it allows us to support two fantastic schools with our donation – Bill Quay and Wardley Primary School – two schools which are extremely close to our business.”

The full list of winners and sponsors are

Geoff Ford MBE Apprentice Award, sponsored by Gateshead College

  • Megan Gorman – Unipres (UK) Limited

Graduate Award, sponsored by Marelli

  • Nathan Tshibuyi – Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK

Innovation Award, sponsored by Newcastle University

  • Multinational:
    • Komatsu UK Ltd
  • Highly Commended:
    • Marelli
  • SME:
    • Charpak Ltd

Digital Transformation Award, sponsored by NA College

  • Vantec Europe Limited

Environmental & Sustainability Award, sponsored by Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK

  • Multinational:
    • Lear Sunderland
  • SME:
    • Houghton International

Employer of the Year Award, sponsored by Invest South Tyneside

  • Faltec Europe Limited

SME of the Year Award, sponsored by North East Institute of Technology (NEIoT)

  • CMYK Digital Solutions Limited

Outstanding Contribution Award, sponsored by Sunderland City Council

  • Martin Kendall, Managing Director at Vantec Europe

A drinks reception was sponsored by Smart Manufacturing Solutions and SMS Technology and the awards brochure sponsor was Horizon Works.



Members will immediately benefit from the promotion of the North East automotive sector’s capabilities on regional, national and international levels and the network’s ability to connect the supply chain to business opportunities.