SERC Apprentice Carpenter is crowned Screwfix Trade Apprentice 2024

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23 May 2024

Matthew Rutherford

Jindara Scott

Matthew Rutherford, from Bangor, who is currently completing his Level 2 Apprenticeship NI in Carpentry and Joinery at South Eastern Regional College’s (SERC) Newtownards Campus and employed by Laird Contracts Ltd, has been named Screwfix Trade Apprentice 2024 champion.

At just 19 years old, Matthew successfully competed in the national final against nine other top apprentices from across the UK and Ireland. Fighting off fierce competition, Matthew walked away with the coveted trophy and a career-boosting prize bundle of tools, tech and training worth £10,000.

During the two-day final, which took place in London, UK, Matthew wowed the esteemed panel of industry judges, including representatives from Screwfix, the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC), the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE), the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) with his passion for carpentry.

After completing his A-Levels, Matthew was encouraged to attend University. However, knowing his true passion was in carpentry, he decided to follow his dreams and enrolled at SERC where he is completing his Level 2 Apprenticeship NI in Carpentry and Joinery.

During the final, Matthew spoke passionately about preserving and restoring the UK’s existing buildings, particularly residential properties that would otherwise be demolished. Hoping to breathe new life into older properties, Matthew sees his future in the renovation market and wants to build his own portfolio of renovated properties for the Northern Ireland rental sector.

Matthew also won the judges over with his thoughtful response to the pre-final task – designing a tool that would make a tradesperson’s life easier. Matthew devised a proposal for a product called ‘DoorMate’ which addressed the common problem of hanging doors correctly, impressing Screwfix Top Tradesperson winner and fellow carpenter, Astrid Arnold, who also joined the expert judging panel.

Matthew said: “I’m so honoured to be Screwfix Trade Apprentice 2024. When they announced my name as the winner I couldn’t believe it, it felt completely surreal. I just love my job and I am constantly inspired by my surroundings.

“I think a lot of people believe a career in the trades is for those who can’t get into university, but I’ve chosen to follow my passion for carpentry – I get to work on something different every day and it has helped me grow my confidence and skills so much.  

“I’m also the first Screwfix Trade Apprentice from Northern Ireland, so it feels great to be representing my country. I’d love to inspire others to take up a career in the trades, and I hope to be able to take on my own apprentices one day.”

With an incredibly high standard of finalists in this year’s competition, for the first time, the judges decided to award two Highly Commended recognitions at the final to Jindara Scott and Ethan Wynn. Also representing Northern Ireland, Jindara, (22), is a Level 3 Apprenticeship NI Electrical Installation apprentice at SERC’s Lisburn Campus, employed by MCM Electrical (Mena Contracts), who impressed the judges with her drive and ambition to improve standards and workplace culture in the industry. Jindara will receive a prize bundle worth £1,000.

Simon O’Mahony, Director of Marketing Communications for Screwfix, who also was a judge at the final, said: “We are now in the tenth year of Screwfix Trade Apprentice, an important award that recognises the very best trade apprentices in the UK. This year more than ever, the calibre of entries were particularly high. Every one of our finalists is a credit to their trade and the future of the industry.

“Matthew’s considered approach to the tool design task and his passion for carpentry really impressed our judges. He demonstrated a genuine curiosity for his trade, passionate about renovating buildings and improving his knowledge and skills to be the best carpenter he can be. I’m really looking forward to Matthew being an ambassador for Screwfix and for apprenticeships in the trades. We urgently need to address the skills gap in the construction industry and nurturing fresh, new talent is key to achieving this."