The final two heats of the SPARKS UK Electrical Apprentice of the Year took place last week, with two more competitors confirmed for the final.
The task, set by Head Judge Darren Oates, involved working with a range of Schneider Electrical materials, as well as WAGO connectors and Prysmian cable.
All the SPARKS UK Electrical Apprentice of the Year competitors received a bundle of goodies from sponsors.
Stephenson College in Leicestershire was the venue for the Midlands heat on Tuesday, with competitors travelling from around the region to take on the five-hour challenge.
In a fiercely-contested heat, Ben Reeves from Northampton College was announced as the winner and sixth finalist!
Ben, a Level 3 final-year apprentice, said: “I’m a bit shocked. I didn’t think I was going to do it.
“A couple of others finished before me. I was expecting them to have taken it.
“I was constantly flat out with a heavy work rate, I put the last screw in as they said, ‘stop’, so I just about managed in time.
“There was one bit with the mini trunking, it’s stuff I don’t normally use, so I messed up a little bit – but I jumped straight back on it.
“If I’d have done that right the first time, maybe I’d have had time at the end to go through everything and make sure it was all correct.
“I’ll have to have a look at the old photo galleries to see what happens at the finals and get a bit more practice in!”
His teacher, Bob Smith, said: “It was very pleasing. I saw his finished product, it looked very good to the eye, a good install.
“I was very pleased with what Ben produced today.”
On Thursday, SPARKS headed down the M40 to West Herts college for the final regional heat, in which eleven competitors took part.
After an intense day of working, Chris Davenport from Farnborough College of Technology was announced as the winner.
Chris, a Level 3 apprentice, said: “It was amazing, I didn’t see it coming at all. It was a shock, really!
“I thought I’d lost it because I didn’t do a lot of the sockets, but I got enough points and the quality of work was good enough.
“It was a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be. I went in worried about bits like the conduit drops and bubbles. Bending conduit isn’t my strong point.
“Despite mucking up a couple of times, it wasn’t too bad but I didn’t finish it all, I ran out of time.”
Richard Taylor, Chris’ lecturer, said: “I’m delighted as his lecturer. Sometimes it’s difficult to call when you look at all the exhibits around the workshop.
“I was a judge on a competition a while ago and i know it’s in the detail. When you take it all apart you find the quality of work, and that’s obviously what has put Chris in first place today.
“We had an internal competition, Chris won it and we’re delighted it’s worked out for us – it was a good choice, here we are!
“We’ll do a bit of coaching before the final, a bit of practice and get ready for the next big event!”
The highest-scoring runner-up will join the seven regional winners and battle it out for the SPARKS UK Electrical Apprentice of the Year crown in a two-day competition held at 3M on 21st and 22nd March.
Get involved in the discussion online – use the hashtag #SPARKSAOY19!
The SPARKS UK Electrical Apprentice of the Year finalists
North East – Bradley Smith, Derwentside College
North West – Zack Duxbury, Burnley College
South West – Will Frapple, Petroc
Wales – Elliott Dix, Cardiff and Vale College
Northern Ireland – Scott Barr, South East Regional College
Midlands – Ben Reeves, Northampton College
South East – Chris Davenport, Farnborough College of Technology
Highest scoring runner-up – Ben Kidner, Bridgwater & Taunton College