Third time lucky for Gainsborough decorator in Crown Trade competition

Sandie at work

Sandie Webster, a determined painter and decorator from Gainsborough in Lincolnshire has achieved her goal of being ‘Crowned’ Apprentice Decorator of the Year, after securing a place for the third year running in the national final of Crown Trade’s prestigious competition.

For the first time in over 35 years, the grand finale of the Crown Trade contest (part of Skillbuild and a WorldSkills UK National Competition) was held at the nation’s largest skills and careers event, the UK Skills Show, at the NEC Birmingham in November.

The competition was one of 70 national skills contests taking place, giving over 700 talented apprentices, employees and learners an opportunity to show what they could achieve and to be named the ‘best in the UK’ in their chosen skill.  .

Barrie Nicolson judging the work

29 year old Sandie, who embarked on a decorating career at 26, faced fierce competition from twelve other P&D finalists all of whom had attained top scores in regional heats. Each competitor had to complete a demanding test piece – designed to really stretch their capabilities – and impress the panel of judges which included Barrie Nicolson, Junior Vice President of the Scottish Decorators’ Federation.

Because the competition was part of the Skills Show, attended by over 82,000 young people and their teachers, tutors and parents, finalists were competing in an open arena where spectators could watch them at work.

“I’d managed to get to Crown Trade’s national final twice before, but it was very different this time round”, said Sandie. “I’d never been to the Skills Show so I didn’t realise just how big a deal it was. Because of the scale of the event it made you feel really important to be part of it!”

After the final whistle blew to call the P&D competition to a close, there was agonising 30-hour wait for the results to be announced at the WorldSkills UK Awards Ceremony in the LG Arena.

Sandie was “over the moon and completely lost for words” to be invited onto the stage to receive her gold medal from Crown Trade Marketing Manager Debbie Orr. She also received the Crown Trade Apprentice Decorator of the Year trophy and £1000 from the manufacturer. The winner of the Silver medal and £500 prize money was 23-year old Lee Bellamy representing Sheffield City College. Bagnalls employee Kristian Pilmer, representing New College Durham, took the bronze medal and received £250.

The 2013 finalists

Debbie Orr said:”Despite the supportive environment we create for the competitors and the very real camaraderie and friendship that developed between them, this was a very tough competition. Sandie held her nerve, paced herself well and her technical ability and attention to detail shone through – she really deserved to win the title this time round.”

She added: “There have been many changes to the way we have organised competitions for our industry’s most talented newcomers over the past 35 years. Becoming closely involved with the WorldSkills organisation has really differentiated Crown Trade’s event from other contests. Now that our national final is also an integral part of the Skills Show, which reaches out in such an exciting, inspirational and inclusive way to so many thousands of young people considering their future careers, it has taken our competition to a completely new level.”

Crown Trade will soon be calling for entrants for next year’s regional heats which start in April 2014.  For further information or to register please contact 0845 389 9583 or email