Apprentice Decorator of the Year: advice from a former winner
With this year’s Apprentice Decorator of the Year finalists set to be announced soon, judge Ben Deer, who won the competition in 2015, reveals what the judging panel have been looking for from this year’s competitors.
As well as the advanced competition, which sees the highest scorers go through to the next stage – the national final – where they compete to be named Apprentice Decorator of the Year, the regional heats also host a new entrant competition, which is open to those primarily in their first year of college. Although it’s not as much of a high pressured environment, I find it really interesting as I can see their future potential!
Those taking part in the advanced competition are presented with a design – which is created by the Crown Paints in-house design studio every year – and they’re expected to create a scaled-up version of this on an 8”x4” plasterboard. The design changes every year and the intention is always to take competitors a little out of their comfort zone. This year the design was based on the World Cup, as the winner of the nationals will go on to compete in Russia – this year’s host country. Competitors are given five and a half hours, with just a half an hour lunch break, to hopefully complete the scaled-up design.
The national final then takes place over three days and any age-eligible finalist could have the opportunity to represent the UK in the WorldSkills competitions.
Having taken part in the competitions myself, I know how daunting it can be to be presented with the design, but we don’t just hand it to the competitors and leave them to it; before the competition begins the judges give everyone taking part a brief, and go through the design. We’re happy to answer questions and provide reassurance, but obviously it all comes down to individuals giving it their best shot.
What the judges are looking for
The judges are looking out for six key things as part of the official marking criteria:
- Setting out
- Wallpaper design application
- Numerals – using frisk film
- Crown Trade logo – using a sticker/transfer
- Neatness of workmanship
Specifically, we’re looking out for clean lines – competitors use stencils to create an outline to paint around. There is a correct way of using stencils, so we’re looking for accurate cutting-in (for example, if the design is a circle, we don’t want to see it shaped like a 50p coin!). On top of this, we like to see a tidy work station, and we can deduct points for untidy spaces as this is something which is also really important outside of the competition.
The design is based around the curriculum, so as well as technical accuracy, we want the competitors to demonstrate a commitment to high standards of work and a positive approach to the task in hand. As in the real world of decorating, finesse and time management are essential, so that’s something else we really look out for.
Being a former competitor myself, I found judging quite challenging as I’d been in that position three years ago so I really empathised with everyone taking part. Because as judges we’re able to interact with competitors while they’re working, if I saw someone struggling I was happy to talk them through it and give encouragement – which I think they took seriously knowing that I’d been in their position just a few years ago.
Advice to future competitors
I would encourage any apprentice decorators considering entering the competition to go for it – my college friends regretted not getting involved when they saw how well I was doing. In the meantime: practice, practice, practice!
In terms of advice to competitors, the key thing is to stay focused on the competition – there’s loads going on throughout the day, but don’t allow yourself to get too distracted. I’d also advise to get an early night before the day of the competition!
If you’re interested in taking part in next year’s Apprentice Decorator of the Year competition, you can register your interest here.