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Downpatrick Student Is NI Apprentice Of Year
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A young Downpatrick apprentice has been crowned Northern Ireland’s Apprentice of the Year for 2011.

Luke Hawthorne triumphed at a glittering ceremony at Belfast’s Europa Hotel.

Since Luke, 21, started his Wood Machining apprenticeship in 2007 at South Eastern Regional College’s Downpatrick campus, his record of success speaks for itself. Since gaining his NVQ Level 2, Luke, who is employed with H J O’Boyle Ltd., has continued to demonstrate his excellence, including participation at the Northern Ireland Skillbuild competition. In 2009 he was awarded the silver medal in the competition and in 2010 went one better, achieving the gold medal in the Carpentry section.

Luke Hawthorne, second right, NI Apprentice of the Year. (Photo by Simon Graham/Harrison Photography)

Congratulating Luke, Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry, said, “Apprenticeships play a key role in providing trainees with the skill sets with which to gain employment in what is an increasingly competitive job market and today’s awards are proof that the Apprenticeships message is getting through. The excellence in training and investment in workforce development which we have witnessed today is central to our economic competitiveness and augurs well for Northern Ireland’s future.”

The Minister added, “The Apprentice of the Year title is a fitting reward for Luke’s hard work and commitment to personal development. He is richly deserving of this year’s award and I wish him well in his chosen career.”

Luke has also recently been selected for ‘Squad UK’, with a chance to represent the UK in the world’s largest international skills competition, WorldSkills, to be hosted in London later this year. As part of the selection process, he is required to attend a series of mainland training sessions before a single tradesman from each group will be chosen for this prestigious event.

Now working towards his NVQ Level 3, Luke is determined to reach his full potential and demonstrate that a vocational career can be just as rewarding as an academic career.

There are over 11,500 apprentices currently in training in Northern Ireland. All are following a training framework developed with the relevant industry sector, which includes attainment of a Vocational Qualification, a technical certificate and specified essential skills.

The Apprentice of the Year competition is open to those currently on the Department for Employment and Learning’s Apprenticeships programmes and showcases excellence in apprenticeship training. To find out more about the Department for Employment and Learning apprenticeship programmes visit :

http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/apprenticeshipsni