Judge spills the beans on new and improved Apprentice of the Year practical

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The Registered Master Builders Carters 2013 Apprentice of the Year competition saw the practical building component undergo a massive overhaul, with the format and building task completely transformed.

In previous years, national finalists were tasked with completing three small challenges, such as building a set of stairs or constructing a dovetail joint. In 2013, contestants were given five hours to construct a children’s playhouse, which was gifted to a local charity on completion.

Apprentice of the Year national judge Paul Mitchell says the new format took the competition to a whole new level.
“The concept of building a finished product was great. It was very visual, and you could stand back and see what the contestants had produced. It was really satisfying for the apprentices and for those watching,” he says.

“For the judges, observing the contestants while they completed a project of this nature from start to finish gave us great insight into their planning and work processes.”
2013 also saw the practical judging component held at The Cloud on Auckland’s waterfront in front of friends, family and the public, as opposed to a private warehouse in Lower Hutt.

“When we originally scoped the new practical, we were a bit concerned that having so many people watching the apprentices while they competed might stress them out,” Mr Mitchell says.

“On the day, we realised we had no reason to worry — they loved it! Having people cheer for them really seemed to spur them on. It was an exhilarating environment.
“The highlight of the practical for me was seeing the charities that were to receive the playhouses come along. We had one charity bring 10 or 15 kids down to The Cloud to cheer for their apprentice — that was fantastic.”

Mr Mitchell says there are a number of things the judges look for in a winner.

“The first thing apprentices need to prove in a practical carpentry challenge is that they are able to carefully follow a set of plans and instructions. At the beginning there might be a temptation to rush in and get started, but you need to take the time to make sure you’re on the right path,” he says.
“At some point during the practical, there comes a choice between speed and accuracy. Contestants can either go fast and get the job done, or make sure what is being produced is high quality.

“For an apprentice, it’s so important to be able to be neat and accurate. Speed will come with practice. Our 2013 winner demonstrated both of these components — he was very efficient and got through the job, but also produced good quality work.
“We’re looking forward to seeing what level of skill is brought to the table in this year’s national final.”

Entries for the Registered Master Builders Carters 2014 Apprentice of the Year competition open on Tuesday, April 1.

The Apprentice of the Year competition is made possible thanks to principal sponsor Carters, the Registered Master Builders Association, the Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO), and supporting sponsor the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

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