Two apprentices from the north of England – Jay Webster and Kieran Forster – have been crowned Redland and Icopal Apprentices of the Year 2018 respectively after the BMI-backed competition culminated in two days of intense scrutiny from a panel of industry-leading figures.
At a special gala dinner, the victors received a £1,000 cash prize for each of them to invest in their future, a trophy for the mantelpiece, plus a goody bag of roofing tools and materials. They are also entitled to support from the two industry brand leaders at BMI’s National Training Centre.
Speaking just after the prize-giving, which was announced on June 27, Redland Apprentice of the Year winner Jay, who attends Leeds College of Building and works for Yorkshire Heritage Roofing, said: “Words can’t really describe how I feel and I still can’t believe it to be honest. I became more confident as the competition went on, but to actually win it, tells me I’m better than I thought I was.”
The Icopal Apprentice of the Year winner Kieran, an attendee at Newcastle College and employed by Stanley-based Hodgson Sayers, admitted it all came as a bit of a surprise. He said: “I was in pure shock when I heard my name announced, and I’m still in shock. I can’t believe it’s actually happened. There were guys there with more experience than me, so to win it is simply amazing!”
So tightly fought were the two competitions that the judges felt that each category deserved a highly commended award. On the Redland side ex-soldier, Tom Thompson, who works for AL King Roofing and studies at South West Training Group, received the accolade, while for Icopal it was Joe Burgess, a former waiter, who came out with a memorable phrase during his presentation: “I gave up a job to go into a career,” when talking about his move into roofing. Joe works for Waveney District Council and is enrolled at Eastern Region Roof Training Group.
The finalists competed over two days, which comprised a series of presentations and assignments. These examined every facet of running their own roofing business – including business planning, presentation skills, and technical skills. Perhaps the most daunting of the exercises was the individual presentations made to the judges at the very end of the competition. This involved a five-minute talk in front of their respective judging panels describing their motivation and future objectives in roofing.
One of the judges, Gary Walpole, health and safety officer at the National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC), was hugely impressed at what he saw: “The contestants have been taken out of their comfort zone by being forced to tackle ‘soft’ skills rather than the physical side of their trade. What has impressed me so much is how they have all grown in confidence, have really focused on the job in hand and achieved things they probably thought were beyond them prior to the competition.”
Mat Woodyatt, BMI technical training manager, added: “This has been a fantastic event, the first time we have held a competition to find the best in both roofing disciplines: pitched and flat. All 18 contestants deserve huge credit for their hard work and achievements over the last 48 hours. I know the judges looked long and hard at the scoring, deliberated at length about what marks to award and genuinely found it difficult to separate participants. However, in the end there can only be two winners, so heartfelt congratulations to Jay and Kieran. Well done all!”