Kirsty adds a touch of gloss to world of painting and decorating

The presentation photo shows awards being read out by Ian Gaskell, Head of Construction at New College Durham, and being presented by College Director of School Mark Anderson.
The presentation photo shows awards being read out by Ian Gaskell, Head of Construction at New College Durham, and being presented by College Director of School Mark Anderson.
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A PAINTING and decorating apprentice has won the regional heat of a national skills competition which aims to highlight the best young talent in the construction industry.

Kirsty Neilson from Coldingham, who works for the Berwick painting and decorating firm of Iain A Grieve, was entered for Skillbuild.

The regional heat was held at New College Durham earlier this month where 22-year-old Kirsty was judged overall winner in the senior category.

The delighted victor said: “I am really proud of my achievement. I had no idea how well I’d done as there was no time for us to have a look at competitors work before the judging took place. Coming out as overall winner was a really nice surprise!”

She added: “I won a nice medal and certificate and more importantly a chance to go on and do well in the national finals, representing both my company and the Berwick area.”

Kirsty says she has always been interested in painting and decorating but took it a step further than most when deciding it was the career for her.

She said: “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I was at school but I always enjoyed painting and papering, maybe because that’s what my dad’s dad did and it was ingrained in me as a youngster!

So after leaving school she enrolled on a four month long foundation course at Newcastle College in 2007.

“I found it interesting but still wasn’t sure if it was for me so I had a go at interior design for a year,” she explained.

“I decided after that to go back to decorating because it was so much more hands on than interior design where you can find yourself sitting behind a desk a lot of the time.”

She started a Level 2 diploma and got an apprenticeship with Iain A Grieve and she’s loving it.

“I really enjoy it,” she said. “There’s always something different to do. I’m now doing a Level 3 NVQ and hope to stay with the company.”

SkillBuild is the largest multi-trade competition in the country for construction trainees and apprentices.

Regional heats involve students working on test pieces which take a day to complete.

Test pieces are designed to challenge the ability of entrants to follow detailed instructions, produce accurate and neat work outputs, be economical with materials while working to strict timescales – all essential requirements for today’s construction industry.

The highest scorers from the regional events are put forward to compete in the national final which this year takes place at Preston College from September 12-14.

Success in this competition can lead to entry into the World Skills competition, offering a chance to compete against young people from many other competing countries.

Kirsty is coming toward the end of her advanced apprenticeship on the Construction Skills apprenticeship programme and attends Newcastle College on a day release basis.

Apprenticeship officer Keith Perry commented: “We are delighted for Kirsty.

“Over three years she has demonstrated a natural ability and interest in her chosen profession matched with a willingness to learn, she is a deserved winner and we wish her luck in the national final.”

Keith also praised her employer, explaining: “Apprentices can only excel given the correct working environment and support from their employers and thanks are due to Iain Grieve who has consistently supported young people in the area through apprenticeships placements.”

However, Iain himself was quick to praise his apprentice, adding: “Kirsty had previously completed her technical qualifications at college through her own undertaking and it was Construction Skills that made us aware of both her commitment, and of course her talent.

“After interview we decided to give her the opportunity, albeit with some reservation at first as our first female operative.

“Those concerns were quickly alleviated however as Kirsty progressed through her trade NVQ qualifications and settled into the working life.”

Iain continued: “Kirsty has shone in our trade and has held her own in what is still predominantly a male-dominated industry.

“Nothing fazes her from small domestic to large industrial work and we even get customers asking for her back which says a lot about her personality and workmanship.

“It is nice to see her talent, skills and commitment being rewarded in competitions like Skillbuild and very satisfying for us as a company to see our apprentices doing well.”

CITB-ConstructionSkills is the Industrial Training Board (ITB) for the construction industry in Great Britain (Scotland, England and Wales).

It is working to ensure that construction employers have the right skills, in the right place, at the right time by investing funds as well as providing a wide range of industry-led skills and training solutions. It is also a partner in ConstructionSkills, the Sector Skills Council (SSC) for the UK construction industry, and is raising employer engagement in training, providing labour market insights on future skills needs and developing standards and qualifications for the sector.  As an ITB and SSC CITB-ConstructionSkills is providing vital support to a sector which is central to the UK economy.

Any young person wishing to find out more about apprenticeships and career opportunities in the construction industry should visit