Greene King has been named VQ employer of the Year 2015 for its “outstanding support for staff undertaking vocational qualifications (VQs)”.

The company, which won the VQ large employer category award last month, held off competition from TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s cookery school, River Cottage, to land the overall title for “championing technical, practical and vocational skills within its workforce”.

The award celebrates Greene King’s achievements in supporting those undertaking vocational qualifications (VQs) within its workforce of over 23,000 people.

The company established its apprenticeship programme in 2011 and since then more than 3,000 employees have achieved nationally recognised qualifications, with 2,000 more expected to follow within the next 12 months.

It said that since introducing the programme, the company has seen a positive increase in staff retention.

Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand said: “We are thrilled that our investment in employees has been recognised in this year’s VQ Awards. Not only do vocational qualifications help the individual achieve their career goals, but they also improve staff retention and productivity.”