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Berthon Apprentices at the Queen’s Silver Medal

December 21, 2017

Berthon Apprentice bronze in Queen’s Silver Medal


In 1944, His Majesty King George VI, Permanent Master of the Shipwrights’ Company, launched a Silver Medal which was to be granted to the Shipyard Apprentice of the Year. Kenneth Wood was the first to win this prestigious medal and from then on the competition has continued with a winner every year. Later in 1978, a runners-up Bronze Medal was introduced, and again in 1998 an additional Bronze Medal for the best craftsman, as a remembrance for Derek Kimber OBE, Prime Warden, and a renowned shipbuilder with an enthusiasm for education in apprenticeships.

Candidates from all yards throughout the United Kingdom are invited every year. Over 100 hopeful apprentices apply for a spot on the Leadership and Team Building Course of which only a sixteen are chosen. After the applicants are selected they begin the rigorous process of a week’s course and evaluation, in September, at Hawkhirst on Kielder Water in Northumberland. Members of the Shipwrights’ Educational Sub-Committee will then decide the winners of the Silver, Bronze and Derek Kimber medals, along with additional prize money of £1500, £1000 and £750.

This year, Joe Hewin, one of Berthon’s 4th-year apprentices, has been selected by the Education and Charities Committee and awarded the runners-up Bronze Medal along with £1000.

“At the end of my 4 year marine engineering apprenticeship at Berthon I applied for the Queen’s Silver Medal Competition, I wrote my application form which had to contain details of my training, qualifications and references from my managers and I then submitted it. Shortly after the applications were reviewed I was informed by the Yard Manager that I and Nathan Smith (another Berthon apprentice) had been accepted onto the course. I did not know what to expect of the week, I was told by colleagues that had taken part in the past that it was very tough and that I should not underestimate how difficult and mentally challenging it actually is.

“Once we arrived at the Centre they told us to make our beds with all of the bedding provided, this was a joke as we only got to stay in them on the last night of the week, the rest of the time we were in makeshift tents in the forest, or under tarpaulins in the rain. They managed to fill so much into the week that there was no time for sleep anyway.  We were given a briefing that evening and introduced ourselves to each other and got given several worksheets which had to be filled out whenever we had ‘free time’. We each received a tabard with a color and a number on it; this was what divided us up into smaller teams, I was RED 10, we still did not get told what we were going to be doing or when we were going to be doing anything so it was all still quite unknown, they just said be yourself and try to enjoy it.

“We had to complete task after task throughout the week, from physical activities like raft building, 26 mile hike and camp, skinning a rabbit, erecting a tent blindfolded and many more, we also had to complete classroom based activities such as a presentation about quality in our company, theory work about ourselves and what types of people we are, what roles we play in the company and the ways we learn best.

“As we hardly had any sleep and were constantly focusing on a challenge we had to complete, the further through the week the more tired and physically and mentally exhausted everyone became, but it was at this point that you had to push through and focus. The instructors were reviewing our leadership and delegation skills, teamwork skills, problem solving, decision making, communication skills, personal make up, and our technical awareness.

“The 26 mile hike was near the end of the week. This was the real test to see who we really were; it tested our fitness, our team work skills, how we treated everyone else in the group and how determined we were. After the first day we had to camp under tarpaulins in the rain with the rest of our team, we were all soaked through but we managed to keep the team moral high throughout.

“I cannot believe how much I have learned about myself from the week; I felt like it put a lot of things into perspective for me and I showed myself how well I can work as part of a team, leading a team or working by myself. One way I have noticed I have improved is that I have found it a lot easier to explain things to people in a clearer and more concise way. I have met some great people from this opportunity, both candidates and instructors, making some great friends that I will definitely meet up with again. I would advise anyone who has the opportunity to apply for this competition; it is extremely rewarding and enjoyable from start to finish.

“I was over the moon when I found out I had got into the final 6 as there were a lot of very strong candidates. Everyone put in a lot of effort and I was very happy with the result. We then had the final interviews at the Ironmongers Hall in London. We were interviewed by a panel of shipwrights from the Worshipful Company and asked many questions about us as individuals, our jobs and what we do, where we see ourselves in the future, our career aspirations and what we enjoyed and learned from the week.

“To find out that I came 2nd overall was a massive achievement for me; it is a great thing to add to my CV on top of my apprenticeship at Berthon.”

This is the fourth time a Berthon employee has been chosen to receive an award for the Queen’s Silver Medal. In 1994 James Fordham won the Queen’s Silver Medal, in 1999 Paul Urquhart won the Derek Kimber Prize and again in 2009 James Woolgar. We are privileged to again add another name to the list of winners of one of these prestigious awards.

We would like to thank Joe for all of his hard work for the past 4 years at Berthon and congratulate him on winning his Bronze medal in the Queen’s Silver Medal Awards.

Berthon’s apprenticeship program has been established for more than 100 years and today many of our employees have been with us for their entire careers, with others returning after a sojourn elsewhere.

Every year Berthon has multiple openings for motivated young persons to join our apprenticeship program. You receive on the job experience working on prestige private and commercial vessels coupled with City & Guilds and NVQ qualifications along with the aid and assistance of our training provider. If you feel you have the enthusiasm, ambition and dedication to complete a 4-year apprenticeship you will have the opportunity to ‘Earn as you Learn’ in a top quality environment.

For more information about our apprenticeship programs please see our apprenticeships page.

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