THE names have been revealed of the talented apprentices who’ll battle it out to be crowned best painter and decorator in the country.

The annual Crown Trade Apprentice Decorator of the Year competition promotes emerging talent by acting as a showcase for skills.

Heats are held throughout the UK and eight students have now emerged to compete for the national title and a £1,000 first prize.

The three-day event will take place at The Skills Show, one of the biggest events in the painting and decorating calendar, to be held at the NEC in Birmingham on November 17-19.

And three of the finalists will know precisely what to expect as they’ll be making their second successive appearance on the big stage.

Stefan Hubble, Ryan Chamberlain and Amanda Conner narrowly missed out in last year’s final which was won by Ben Deer, from Dorset.

Stefan, the former Vision West Nottinghamshire College student, now working full-time for Sharpline Decorators in Mansfield, is hoping to go one better this time.

The 27-year-old said: “I was runner-up last year and was pleased I did so well, but I was very nervous which didn’t help. Hopefully, that experience will help me in this year’s final.

I did really well at college and won through the regional heat, so I know I have the skills – it’s just a matter of applying them in the right way.

If I can do that, I’ve got a big chance, but I’ve no doubt there’ll be seven other contestants thinking the same thing.

The competition is fantastic as it encourages apprentices to show their skills on a national stage. I’m delighted to be in the final again and really looking forward to it.”

Third year Shrewsbury College of Art & Technology student Amanda, aged 25, from Telford, has set her sights on victory too.

She said: “I feel a lot more confident this year, mainly because I know roughly what to expect, and I think I have a real shot at the title.

My speed let me down a little last year, so I’ll be more aware of my timings and it should be ok.

I want to do a heritage course, which will give me the chance to maintain stately homes and vintage cottages, or set up a painting and decorating business with my dad and this competition will help me along the way.”

Ryan, aged 20, from Ushaw Moor in Durham, has just finished a Level Three NVQ at New College in the county.

He said: “Last year’s final was an amazing experience. I met a lot of new people, learned new tricks of the trade and it’s great to be involved again.

I know what to expect this time and I think that might help me, but I’ll just do my best.”

But the final will be a first for the likes of Jessica Heath, who’s about to start her third year at Barnsley College where she’s also an apprentice.

The 19-year-old, from Huddersfield, said: “I found the heat quite challenging and I’m sure the final will be even tougher, but it’s good fun.

I didn’t have anyone to train me for the competition, so I did well to come through it. I’m not too sure how I’ll get on, but it should be a great experience.”

Another of the finalists is Philip Orme, from Devonport in Plymouth.

The 24-year-old attends City College in Plymouth and works for a company called Decorative Finishes in the city.

He said: “I’m really excited to be taking part in a fantastic competition at a national level.

The heat was tough enough and I know I’ll be up against stiff competition, but I’ll definitely give it my best shot.

I’m hoping it could be a springboard for me and my ambition to run my own business one day.”

Patrick Dinham, from Penrith in Cumbria, also believes the competition will provide a boost to his career.

The 20-year-old completed a Level Two NVQ at Carlisle College in June and has been with Sissons Decorators in Penrith for two and a half years.

He said: “The competition has already been a great experience and the final will help develop my skills and knowledge in the trade even further.

I hope to one-day start a business with my brother and I’m sure this will help me along the way.”

Ayla Foulis, aged 24, is feeling confident of her chances in the final.

The third year Fife College apprentice, from Dunfermline, said: “I found the heat pretty straight forward to be honest.

I was in another competition previously so I kind of know what to expect. I think I can do well in the final, but we’ll see.

Winning it would be a fantastic stepping stone for me. I’m thinking of taking an interior design course in future and want to set up on my own one day.”

Lewys Rawlings, from Wrexham, a student at Coleg Cambria in North East Wales, makes up the final eight.

Competitors in each regional heat were challenged to complete three complex tasks designed to test the quality of their technique and time management.

Kevin O’Donnell, Product Trainer at Crown Paints and Crown Trade Apprentice Decorator of the Year Competition Manager, said: “This year’s project created a true test of skills, time management and ability to work under pressure.

It required a great deal of skill and the expertise of those who have made the final really shone through.

They’ll need to reproduce that great work and more to win the title because the quality of the competition has been very high and there’ll be some excellent talent on show.”

The Skills Show is an influential training and careers event featuring more than 50 trade-based competitions in which the ‘best of the best’ in each sector battle for the national title.

The annual event, which attracted almost 80,000 visitors last year, is also the route to the acclaimed ‘Skills Olympics’ – Worldskills - which takes place every two years.

Mr O’Donnell added: “The finalists will need all of their powers of concentration for the final.

For apprentices at the start of their career, the pressure is immense as they’ll be in the spotlight for three days and undertaking an even more complex project which must be completed in 19 hours.

But they’ve already shown the potential to perform at the highest level of their trade and it’s a huge chance for them to show their skills to a huge audience.”

Debbie Orr, Marketing Manager for Crown Paints’ trade brands, said: “As a business, we understand the importance of investing in and developing the next generation of industry professionals.

That’s why Crown Trade has been proud to organise and sponsor the Crown Trade Apprentice Decorator of the Year competition for more than 37 years.

The competition touches the lives of hundreds of apprentices at the start of their careers, encourages them to strive for excellence in their craft and reach the highest professional standards. It’s a crucial contest to win in the industry as it is the only competition associated with a national body, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB).

For that reason it is seen as a real badge of honour to win in the trade and the contestants really push to be the best.

It’s hugely rewarding to see competitors start out on a journey which will end up with one of them being officially named the best painter and decorator in the UK at The Skills Show.”

The contest is also a key part of Crown Paints ongoing programme to help address the skills gap, which will be a major focus for the sector over the coming years.

We hope it raises the profile of the industry overall - not just to apprentice decorators, but to people of all ages considering a career in the trade.”

For more details of the Crown Trade Apprentice Decorator of the Year competition and the Skills Show, visit http://www.findafuture.org.uk/the-skills-show