The search for the next SPARKS UK Electrical Apprentice of the Year is over…
SPARKS headed to Newcastle College at the beginning of January for the first regional heat. Over the past few months, seven competitors won their regional heats across the UK in what was the tenth anniversary of the competition.
The winner of each regional heat and the highest runner-up overall scorer went on to the grand final, which took place at the 3M Customer Innovation Centre.
The test was the most comprehensive to date. It consisted of wiring, various conduit bends, a consumer unit, switches and bulbs, which were all live tested at the end of the second day after ten hours of work.
Our eight finalists were: Bradley Smith, Derwentside College; Zack Duxbury, Burnley College; Will Frapple, Petroc; Elliott Dix, Cardiff and Vale College; Scott Barr, South East Regional College; Ben Reeves, Northampton College; Chris Davenport, Farnborough College of Technology; and the highest-scoring runner-up was Ben Kidner, Bridgwater & Taunton College.
From runner-up to champion
Ben Kidner, 19, who qualified for the final as the national highest-scoring runner-up, was announced as the winner in a competition Head Judge Darren Oates described as one of the tightest he’d seen.
Darren said: “The standard has been phenomenal. The other judges will concur, the standard of installation we’ve judged on today has been immense. Each and every one of you needs to take a bow. You’ve been a credit to your colleges, your family and everybody else.
“Some people see it as hard work, but the final makes it such a reward. It’s a privilege for EAL and myself to be involved in such a prestigious competition.
“We rely on you guys to take the industry forward, educate and instil the quality into future generations of apprentices coming through.
“The competition was a very close call, first down to the last competitor. You all said you felt tested. You’ve given the job the credit it deserves today.”
Bradley Smith won the Judge’s Award for all-round application throughout the competition, and Chris Davenport was announced the runner-up.
We caught up with the winner, Ben, before he was announced as the competition winner. Ben works for Rogers Restorations Electrical in the South West and is in the third year of his apprenticeship.
SPARKS Magazine: What’s your favourite thing about the industry?
Ben Kidner: It’s just the best trade out there. You can progress onto so many other things. The amount of support I get from college, the lecturers and my company is unreal. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.
SPARKS: …and your least favourite thing?
BK: When you’re chasing all day. I prefer second fixing, and turning it all on and seeing what you’ve done, you get the sense of achievement.
SPARKS: Why did you decide this industry was for you?
BK: I wanted to get into a trade and I felt like it suited me the most.
SPARKS: Where would you like to be in five years?
BK: Ideally out on my own with my own company. Once you officially get qualified, you’re not (fully ready) – it takes years and years to know what you’re doing, so I’ll see what the future holds.
SPARKS: Who is your biggest inspiration?
BK: My lecturer, Roger Rogers, has put in so many hours training me. His commitment, he’s been at SPARKS’ competitions for many years and I wouldn’t be here without him.
SPARKS: If you were to win today, how would it help your career?
BK: It’d give me a major boost. The college and my company has put a lot of time into training me up and it’d be nice to give something back to show all the hard work they’ve put into me.
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Massive congratulations to our UK Electrical Apprentice of the Year winner, Ben Kidner from @bridgwatertauntoncollege! 🏆 The competition was extremely tight. Our runner-up was Chris Davenport from @farnboroughgram, third place Bradley Smith from @derwentsidecoll. Congratulations to all our other finalists Zack Duxbury, Elliott Dix, Will Frapple and Ben Reeves #SPARKSAOY19
We then spoke to Ben immediately after he was announced as the winner!
SPARKS: How do you feel?
BK: Over the moon, I didn’t think I was going to get this far. it’s a real confidence boost for me. I was the underdog!
SPARKS: How did you feel when you got the call to say you were the best runner-up?
BK: I had a bit of hope. I didn’t think I was going to, so it was nice when I got the call!
SPARKS: Have you entered any competitions before?
BK: I entered this one last year and didn’t have as much success! I didn’t get on so well, it was a good year last year and I have had a lot of training and have progressed a lot since.
SPARKS: What made you enter the competition on both occasions?
BK: Mostly Roger! He puts me up for it, he thinks I’m good enough. I never used to think I was but he believed in me so I did it, and I’ve seen the progress since.
SPARKS: How did you cope with the task?
BK: I was a bit under pressure when I first started. I was slightly rushing but I needed to take a step back, calm down and get back to it. After that, I cleared my head and it was alright.
SPARKS: What advice would you give to people entering next year?
BK: Definitely take it up, it’s a big confidence booster and I’ve seen the results. I wasn’t very good and I’ve seen the improvements since Day One, especially with the extra training hours you do practicing with employers and lecturers.
SPARKS: What has been your favourite part?
BK: Just taking part in it. I like meeting new people, talking to the other lads, it’s a good experience. I’ll definitely believe in myself a bit more!
Ben’s employer and lecturer, Roger Rogers, said: “I’m really excited and pleased. We won the first ever competition and to win the tenth is like a bonus!
“To think Ben didn’t win the regional heat, and he was the runner-up, it’s even more exciting – I’m so chuffed with him that he’s managed to make such a good job!”
Alongside the prestige for both the winning student and winning college, there was a fantastic list of prizes worth up to £10,000 up for grabs. The competition was supported by sponsors and prize-givers: Schneider Electric (Platinum), Electric Center (Gold), WAGO (Silver), 3M, RatedPeople and The IET (Bronze), Prysmian and HiKOKI (Product), EAL and Klein Tools.