Ashley Terron tells how he nearly didn’t become an apprentice, then went on to win gold for bricklaying at WorldSkills

When I was at school, all the kids wanted to be the best at something – the best footballer, the best dancer. For me, building was the family trade so it felt right to go into bricklaying, but never did I think for one moment that I would be named the best apprentice in the UK, let alone in the world.

Receiving my Gold Medal at WorldSkills Leipzig 2013 in front of an audience of apprentices, industry representatives and government officials from all over the world, I made a promise to myself. I wanted to make sure that other apprentices got the same opportunities that entering WorldSkills UK Competitions had given me.

I nearly didn’t become an apprentice

This was made all the more important to me, as I nearly didn’t become an apprentice. At school, my teachers encouraged me to go to university, apprenticeships was a dirty word. I was fortunate that my dad employed apprentices so I could see the benefits of training on the job. I secured an apprenticeship with his company and I also attended Warrington Collegiate.

Having completed my apprenticeship in 2011, I went on to complete a degree in Construction Project Management at the University of Salford. I now manage a team of apprentices at Redrow and it has given me the opportunity to see what is missing from the current training set up. For me, it is criteria that stretch the apprentice, make them ambitious in the pursuit of skills and the opportunity to develop transferable skills.

Skills competitions deliver on all of these points.

For me, a competition element should form part of any apprenticeship assessment. Yes, you could say I am biased. But would I be where I am now without my competition experience?  No, I wouldn’t.

I have seen first-hand the huge benefits of entering competitions

I have seen first-hand the huge benefits that entering competitions can offer apprentices. Not only does the activity develop their technical skills but also helps shape wider attributes including effective teamwork, communication skills and working to tight deadlines, all of which are as important as high level technical skills on site.

At the end of March I am taking a group of apprentices from Redrow to watch the UK’s top bricklayers compete at Stockport College to secure the one place in the team to represent the UK in bricklaying at WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017. After achieving its best ever result at WorldSkills Sâo Paulo 2015, the UK is currently in the top ten in both the WorldSkills and WorldSkills Europe rankings. This means the apprentices are learning from among the best in the world but it also shows them what they can realistically achieve in their own apprenticeship. You can see them becoming more motivated on site.

For me the visit will bring back a mix of emotions, but what I wouldn’t give for the chance to represent the UK and our apprenticeships on the world stage again.

FE Week is a media partner for the WorldSkills 2017 competition. Registration is open until 7 April.

Ashley Terron, an apprentice with Redrow Homes, was Gold Medallist in Bricklaying, WorldSkills Leipzig 2013