27th November 2019




Bell Group’s Gatis Celmins, 35, has emerged as the winner of the 2019 Apprentice Decorator of the Year competition after a gruelling three-day contest hosted at the WorldSkills UK LIVE event at Birmingham’s NEC.


The Inverness UHI apprentice triumphed over eight other finalists thanks to the quality of his careful setting out and excellent time management, completing the complex design set by competition sponsor Crown Paints to an exceptionally high standard.


Gatis had impressed the judges with his attention to detail and good brushwork in the regional heats earlier this year, but the final required a step up from all competitors, as well as the ability to deal with the pressure-cooker environment of the packed NEC conference hall, with lots of noise and potential distractions all around.


He was joined on the podium by silver medallist Lewis Boyle and bronze medallist Abi Johnson, both of whom studied at Leeds College of Building and are employed by Bagnalls.


In the final, the competitors had 18 hours over three days to complete the decorating challenge devised by Crown Paints, which was a celebration of the company’s 40-year sponsorship of the Apprentice Decorator of the Year competition and featured metallic paint as well as a complex multi-coloured streamer effect, half of which the finalists had to paint freehand.


All finalists were closely observed by a judging panel that included Crown Paints’ competition manager Kevin O’Donnell, and Ben Deer, himself a former Crown Paints Apprentice Decorator of the Year.


Gatis said: “Reaching the final meant a great deal to me, and I’m happy to have achieved one of my goals. I'm very proud of myself to be an Apprentice Decorator of the Year winner - it’s proof that hard work pays off.”


Crown Paints competition manager, Kevin O’Donnell, said: “Crown Paints’ design team had created a tricky design this year that required the contestants to draw on all their skills and knowledge in order to finish the work. Not only did Gatis show a high level of skill, he completed his work within the 18 hour limit, diligently and with finesse. He scored well on every section of the judging criteria which makes him a very worthy winner and a credit to the Bell Group.


“I’d also like to congratulate our two runners up, Lewis and Abi, who both performed very well throughout the task too. Lewis and Abi could now both be eligible to be called up to the WorldSkills UK squad, which would give them the opportunity to compete against some of best decorators in the world in the European competition in Graz, Austria next year followed by Shanghai in 2021.”


Bell Group director, Colin Cochrane commented: “We are very proud of Gatis’s achievements and are pleased to see his dedication and skill being recognised. Competitions like the Apprentice Decorator of the Year serve greatly in motivating apprentices even further.


“Our apprentices bring great value to our business and are a significant part of our success. We believe today’s apprentices will shape our future industry and are fundamental in addressing the skills shortage in the sector.”


As well as marking the 40th anniversary of Crown Paints’ sponsorship of the competition with the impressive final design, Crown Paints also celebrated with the launch of the Apprentice Decorator of the Year 40th Anniversary Yearbook, which celebrated the past, present and future of the competition. The Yearbook can be downloaded from the Crown Trade website.


The Apprentice Decorator of the Year competition is organised by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) and is also sponsored by other industry leaders such as British Gypsum.


The final was once again held as part of the SkillBuild event, organised by CITB as part of WorldSkills UK LIVE, at Birmingham’s NEC over three days from 21st to 23rd November. It is the largest multi-trade competition in the UK for construction trainees and apprentices and covers a range of skills and sectors from bricklaying and cabinet making to plastering and stonemasonry.


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