The UK’s best apprentice welders from across the nation’s shipyards have been celebrated at a prestigious ceremony. The final of the annual ShipWeld competition, sponsored by ESAB, was held at BAE Systems Maritime - Submarines.Barrow in Furness. The event culminated with an awards ceremony on 7 November 2013 at Furness College.
The 3-day event, which was hosted in Barrow, had two finalists represented from five individual yards throughout the UK: BAE Systems Maritime - Submarines. Barrow in Furness; BAE Systems Surface Ships Ltd, Clyde; BAE Systems Surface Ships Ltd, Portsmouth; Babcock International Group; Appledore and Babcock International Group, Rosyth.
BAE Portsmouth was given a welcome boost after it won the Team Award and one of its apprentices, Martyn Gale, 22, won the individual accolade. He said: “I am over the moon to have won. It means a lot to me.” Runner up of ShipWeld was Luke Webster of BAE Systems Surface Ships Ltd, Clyde.
There were also local success stories for the host town, Barrow, which had two apprentices in the final - though both were disappointed to have missed out on a top-three position. Jack Culbert, 19, of Vickerstown, Walney, and Ari Ross, 19, of Pannatt Hill, Millom, represented BAE Systems Maritime – Submarines, Barrow. They qualified after being named the winner and runner-up, respectively, of Barrow’s internal competition earlier this year.
Despite missing out, Ari said: “It taught me how to handle pressure and was very nerve-wracking at times. At the end of the day, I’m still one of the 10 best apprentice welders in the UK and I’m happy with that.”
The fifth annual ShipWeld Competition, sponsored by ESAB, is a welding craft competition for UK shipyard apprentices. One of the three judges, Les Ness, Consultant Engineer to ESAB, said: “This is the pinnacle for apprentice welding in all British shipbuilding. All the joints have been designed by the different shipyards to mirror what they do, so all the apprentices had to show skills across the board. Of course, this is done under competition conditions, so they’ve got something like six hours to complete it. They’re fighting the clock all the time.”
Graham Hempsall, BAE Head of Operations – Capability and Governance, at Barrow, said: “I have a soft spot for welding - the reason being, I started as a welding apprentice. So I absolutely appreciate the skill that goes into welding. It’s truly an art and it’s not everybody that can master it. I had a look at the results and the standard is incredible. I didn’t envy the judges - it’s a very difficult task.”
Mike Willetts, Welding NVQ assessor, BAE Systems said: “A lot of hard work went into organising a very worthwhile event by our team, including welding instructors Malcolm McCann and Joe Murphy.”
Guest speaker Councillor Dave Pidduck, Barrow Borough Council leader, served his apprenticeship in Barrow shipyard and went on to become a welding lecturer. He said: “My theory is that welders are the élite. You have skills that will take you anywhere you want to go. To put your skills in welding up against another person’s is courageous and I salute you for it.”
For more information about ESAB and the ShipWeld competition, visit www.esab.co.uk.