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Back on the tools. . . After winning the national final of the New Zealand Certified Builders Apprentice Challenge in Wellington at the weekend, Timaru carpentry apprentice Marc Palmer was back at work on Tuesday. PHOTO: HELEN HOLT

by Helen Holt

A Timaru building apprentice has won the top title in New Zealand.

Marc Palmer (21) competed against 18 other regional finalists in the New Zealand Certified Builders Apprentice Challenge national final in Wellington last weekend.

Mr Palmer said he was surprised to win.

“Leading up to the weekend, I thought I had a sliver of a chance,” he said.

“But then when I got there I was like, ‘absolutely not, these guys are way too good’.”

He competed in the regional apprentice challenge in April, in which he had to build a picnic table against other South Canterbury apprentices.

However, the national final was quite different.

“For the final we had to produce a portfolio of jobs we had done.

“We also had to submit a script for a speech, a CV and cover letter,” Mr Palmer said.

Contestants presented their speeches at the weekend and had to sit an exam.

“The regional competition was centred around craftsmanship, whereas the final was more about the nitty-gritty, technical side of things.”

Crowned champion . . . Marc Palmer with his trophy. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Mr Palmer has been a building apprentice for three years at Bayfields Ltd.

He has completed 80% of his apprenticeship so far.

Mr Palmer’s employer David Bay said the achievement was outstanding.

“It’s been hard to comprehend, because we live in a little bubble down in Timaru, and it’s just the two of us in this company.

“It is quite a big deal for us to have a national champion in Timaru,” Mr Bay said.

For the first time, the apprentice challenge had two women competing and there were also older apprentices who started carpentry later in life.

The event was part of a three-day conference which presented an opportunity for those attending to look at the sector’s most pressing issues under the lens of sustainability environment, their businesses and the trade itself.

More than 800 builders and industry stakeholders attended the expo at the weekend.

It was a celebration of emerging talent at a time when the sector faces a skills shortage, among other pressures.