A NATIONAL contest which promotes emerging talent and creates a pathway to national and global recognition for contestants has been hailed as crucial for the painting and decorating industry.
Figures from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) have revealed more than 13,000 painters and decorators will be needed before 2018 to meet growing demand.
And experts say initiatives such as the Crown Trade Apprentice Decorator of the Year competition, which gives students the chance to test their skills against peers from all over the UK, are vital for the future of the sector as a whole.
The final heat of the annual tournament – the only one of its kind associated with and judged by the CITB – took place at Leeds College of Building in June.
Les Inkpen, projects manager at the CITB, said: “The skills gap within the painting and decorating industry is a cause for concern that makes it very important to focus on encouraging the next generation of professionals.
“Any initiative that helps to address the issue by promoting the trade and the skills of students all over the country can only be good news.
“The Crown Trade Apprentice Decorator of the Year competition creates the perfect platform on which to raise awareness at a crucial time.
“It offers students a chance to showcase their ability and test themselves against the best in the country and it’s a contest which focuses very much on quality which fits perfectly with what is required.”
Nine senior (level two and above) and four junior (level one) apprentices from across the north of England took part in the last of 14 regional heats held throughout the UK during the spring and summer.
Each tackled complex tasks specifically designed to test the quality of their technique in painting, wallpapering and stencil work as well as measuring and time management.
The regional winners, set to be announced in July, will compete in the national final at Skillbuild at The Skills Show – a major industry event at the NEC in Birmingham from November 17-19 – with a £1,000 top prize at stake.
As the nation’s largest skills and careers event – which helps to shape the future of a new generation – The Skills Show provides a high profile platform to compete alongside other trades and industries, in front of an audience of nearly 80,000 visitors.
The contest is also the route to the acclaimed ‘skills Olympics’ Worldskills, which takes place every two years.
Debbie Orr, Marketing Manager for Crown Trade, said: “The Crown Trade Apprentice Decorator of the Year competition touches the lives of hundreds of people at the start of their careers and encourages them to strive for excellence in their craft and reach the highest standards.
“The competition supports training and education for the next generation of painting and decorating professionals and provides a great opportunity for those taking part to show just how well they’ve mastered the skills and techniques required.
“It’s a crucial contest to win in the industry as it is the only competition associated with a national body, the CITB.
“For that reason it is seen as a real badge of honour to win in the trade and the contestants really push to be the best.
“It has been organised and sponsored by Crown Trade for over 37 years and we feel very passionately about it after all this time and really proud of those taking part.
“For us it’s hugely rewarding to see competitors start out on a journey which will end up with one of them being officially named the best painter and decorator in the UK at The Skills Show.
“It also paves the way for entry to global recognition with the Worldskills competition.
“The contest is a key part of Crown Paints ongoing programme to help address the skills gap which will be a major focus for the sector over the coming years.
“We hope it raises the profile of the industry overall – not just to apprentice decorators, but to people of all ages considering a career in the trade.”
Robert Holmes, curriculum manager of construction crafts, Leeds College of Building, added: “It is fantastic for the college to host the competition, and it’s a fantastic opportunity for students to be involved across the Yorkshire region.
“We get really good support from companies such as Crown Paints and it is great that the contest links up with Skillbuild at The Skills Show.
“In today’s culture everything is so fast paced, but we try to instil that it is about quality more than quantity. The Crown Trade Apprentice Decorator of the Year competition helps get that message across.”