SERC construction apprentices build a bright future at SkillBuild NI regional competition

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South Eastern Regional College (SERC) apprentices are celebrating success in the Construction Industry Training Board NI (CITB NI) SkillBuild Regional Competition 2024, hosted recently at South West College Technology and Skills Centre, Enniskillen.

Fourteen SERC students took part in the annual contest and won eight honours between them, including the coveted Apprentice of the Year title.

In cabinet making, first place went to David Magee, (18), from Hillsborough, and second place to Taylor Simpson (21) from Lisburn. Both are on the Level 2 carpentry and joinery apprenticeship.

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In carpentry, second place went to Luke McIlwrath (20), from Ballynahinch who is on a Level 3 Apprenticeship in carpentry & joinery. Matthew Rutherford (19) from Newtownards who is a second level carpentry and joinery apprentice, took third place.  

Apprentice of the year Luke McIlwrath (left) and tutor Francis Rice at SkillBuild NI 2024Apprentice of the year Luke McIlwrath (left) and tutor Francis Rice at SkillBuild NI 2024
Apprentice of the year Luke McIlwrath (left) and tutor Francis Rice at SkillBuild NI 2024

SERC Level 3 Fire and Security apprentices took all podium places in the fire and security competition, with first place going to Taylor Rollo (21), from Newtownards, second place to Rebecca Wilson (18), from Dromore, and third place to Luke Wilson (20), from Lisburn.

Luke McIlwrath was also selected as the Haldane Fisher Apprentice of the Year 2024, receiving a prize bundle of more than £1,000 in Makita tools, vouchers and workwear from Denis Wilson – Glenavy, in conjunction with Makita and CT1. The winner’s trophy was presented by TV broadcaster Sarah Travers. Luke is an apprentice joiner studying at SERC Lisburn Campus with tutor Francis Rice and employed by Nigel Reid, Ballynahinch.

The SkillBuild competition is designed to test technical ability within tight timeframes, and identifies the top performers in 12 different trade areas within construction apprenticeship programmes across Northern Ireland.

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The SkillBuild NI Regional Competition is one of the qualifying rounds, and the SERC winners may have the opportunity to represent Northern Ireland in the SkillBuild UK final to be held in November.  

Francis Rice, Deputy Head of School for Construction Trades at SERC, commented after the event: “I am so very proud of the SERC Apprentices and how well they performed – all those competing in cabinet making, carpentry, joinery, electrical installation and fire and security were great ambassadors for the college.

"Congratulations in particular to the winners, who calmly showed their total commitment to their skills in a pressured environment and produced such great results. I’ve no doubt they are on their way to successful careers in their chosen fields. I also want to acknowledge the SERC tutors who have supported them in preparing for the competition: Seamus Branniff; Adrian Wilson; Robin Hamill; Steven Donnelly; Donal Rodgers; and Chris Patterson.”

Supported by the Department for the Economy and local construction companies, the CITB SkillBuild competition provides an opportunity to showcase the high level of skills and the impressive talent within the workforce, as well as raising the status and standards of professional and technical education and training. 

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Speaking at the event, Barry Neilson, Chief Executive CITB NI, said: “The SkillBuild NI Regional Competition 2024 displayed remarkable talent and the dedication of future construction leaders.

"Apprenticeships are crucial for industry growth, allowing businesses to shape their future workforce and develop necessary skills. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our partner SWC for the fantastic showcase of the NI talent pool throughout the competition and we look forward to the SkillBuild UK National Finals in November.” 

You can find out more about the apprenticeship route at SERC as well as all other courses, at our Open Evening on Thursday 6 June from 5pm until 8pm, at Bangor, Downpatrick, Lisburn and Newtownards Campuses.

Visit to unlock your future #BetterOffAtSERC.

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