Judges at the prestigious EEF national awards believe A&P Group apprentice Martin Laffey is in a class of his own – so they created a category especially for him.
Martin, who works at the Group’s ship repair yard in Hebburn, won the Outstanding Achievement by a First Year Apprentice Award for the North East region, which took him through to the national awards.
Despite not selecting Martin for the national title or runner-up spot, the judges were so impressed by his skill, attitude and enterprise that they created a Highly Commended award solely for him in recognition of his hard work.
Martin, 23, was presented with his certificate at the EEF Future Manufacturing Awards ceremony held in the historic Merchant Taylors Great Hall in London.
Tony Sarginson, regional spokesperson for EEF, the manufacturers organisation, said: “The awards are open to manufacturers across the UK and the competition in the Apprenticeship category was so strong the judges had trouble deciding.
“Unfortunately they didn’t award Martin winner or runner-up but they felt he still deserved a recommendation for his hard work and achievement so they made an award especially for him. His was the only “Highly Commended” category in the entire national awards but the judges felt Martin merited it.
“It’s an extremely prestigious award with literally hundreds of companies, including big names like BAE Systems, Siemens and Rolls Royce, competing so he was really up against it.
“His achievement is no mean feat but Martin is an exceptional candidate and he deserved to have a category created especially for him. I’m really pleased for him and his success reflects well on his employers A&P Tyne, who have renewed their apprenticeship schemes.”
Martin, from Hebburn, is a fourth-generation shipyard worker, his father Martin, his granddad and great-grandad, all having worked in yards on the River Tyne.
He feared he would be denied the opportunity to follow in his father’s footsteps when decades of decline in shipbuilding brought the industry to its knees but A&P Group restored its apprenticeship scheme in 2008 and business is currently booming.
Martin was one of 18 apprentices taken on in September 2009, preserving the traditional skills used by generations to build world-class vessels like the supertanker Esso Northumbria and HMS Ark Royal.
Martin, an apprentice welder, is now working on a section of the new Royal Navy aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth.
He said:”It was a fantastic venue and a great event – I felt quite star-struck to be honest, it was nothing like I’ve ever been to.
“I was over the moon to be able to get up on the stage to collect my award, in front of the country’s creme de la creme of companies. I’ve got the certificates – regional winner and the Highly Commended in the nationals – framed and in my bedroom. My mam wanted to hang them on the sitting room wall but I think I’m a bit old for that!
“When I first found out I’d got an apprenticeship I really wanted to work hard to make sure I did everything the best I could. I’ve approached my apprenticeship with that attitude throughout and I’ve got to put my success in the awards down to the training I’ve had here and the way we’re looked after. I couldn’t be happier.”
Marcel Lundy, training co-ordinator at A&P, was at the awards night to see Martin receive his certificate from Stephen Tilsley, chairman of EAL, who sponsored the award, and BBC business presenter Declan Curry.
Marcel said: “It was a brilliant occasion. Everyone at A&P is very proud of Martin, especially since he was up against the big players, the leading names in their field.”
A&P Tyne Managing Director Stewart Boak added: “Martin has been and will continue to be an excellent ambassador for A&P Group and for all of those who have helped him in this tremendous achievement. I am sure Martin will continue in his development, he has certainly set the bar very high, raising this in the future will be extremely difficult for all those that follow him.”