For the last four decades the Crown Paints Apprentice Decorator of the Year competition has showcased the talent and skill of the UK’s best apprentice painters and decorators. Today it is held in association with SkillBuild and the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) as part of the national WorldSkills show and the bi-annual global WorldSkills competition which gives apprentice decorators the chance to compete on an international stage.
Cast your mind back to 1979, if you can. Pink Floyd released The Wall, Sony unveiled the Walkman and MacDonald’s introduced the Happy Meal to its menu. Dark wood panelled walls and patterned wallpapers combined with heavily patterned carpets and soft furnishings dominated UK home decor while earthy tones including shades of green, brown, yellow and of course orange were difficult to escape from.
The Crown Paints Apprentice Decorator of the Year (ADY) competition, originally organised by the Association of Painting Craft Teachers (APCT) and known as The Young Decorator of the Year, had been running for just a few years when Crown Paints came on board as the main sponsor. Crown has supported it every year since, giving the painters and decorators of the future their chance to shine.
Keeping up with the times
Back in the early days the competition comprised one single event in one location, with around 20 apprentices taking part each year. As the 80s dawned, bringing with it artex ceilings, woodgrain wallpaper, frilly furnishings and wallpaper borders in abundance, the competition was steadily gaining pace. It was around this time that the ADY competition expanded its reach with two separate regional heats hosted for the first time – one in the north and the other in the south.
With the backing of both Crown Paints and CITB, the ADY competition went from strength to strength throughout the 90s – a decade characterised by minimalism and neutral colours including, of course, magnolia. It was at this point that the competition changed with the introduction of four additional regional heats and a national final just as the government’s modern apprenticeship scheme was launched.
In the early noughties, as bold colour schemes and patterned wallpaper marked the end of minimalism and feature walls were in high demand, the ADY competition virtually doubled in size. The organisers changed the criteria to accommodate a variety of different competencies and apprenticeship levels and scores more talented apprentices signed up to take part.
Today the competition is widely recognised as the UK’s premier painting and decorating skills competition. It features no fewer than 11 individual regional heats including one in Northern Ireland, making it a truly national competition. Part of the national Worldskills event – the largest multi-trade competition for UK construction trainees and apprentices studying a range of skills from bricklaying and cabinet making to plastering and stonemasonry – the competition also gives apprentices the chance to compete in the bi-annual international WorldSkills competition, which will take place in Russia later this year. ADY offers even more opportunities for the UK’s most talented apprentice painters and decorators to show the world what they can do.
A platform to showcase decorating skills
The main element of the competition has remained the same – to test the apprentices on their decorating technique, accuracy and attention to detail. The designs are carefully created to test multiple skills and have changed over the years to mirror the fashions of the time or key events.
During the regional heats and national final, the apprentices are judged on their specialist skills such as stencilling as well as their execution of everyday tasks like cutting in, painting joinery, free-hand painting, and wallpapering. It’s not just the overall finish the apprentices are examined on – the judges also like to see them selecting the right tools for each part of the design and keeping their workspace clean and tidy.
The competition is intended to reflect the requirements of the current curriculum to ensure it’s fresh for each wave of new apprentices, which is why today’s competitors work predominantly with water-based paints. As some specialist skills have naturally fallen out of favour and are no longer on the curriculum, they have in turn been taken out of the competition with new techniques replacing them. For example, while signwriting is no longer covered, competitors are instead judged on their use of frisk film. Crown Paints Apprentice Decorator of the Year might be more than 40 years old this year but it’s every bit as relevant to today’s decorators.
The ethos of the ADY competition has not changed in 40 years; it is all about celebrating the best of the industry and inspiring the next generation of painters and decorators. With the support of Crown Paints as sponsor, it has steadily grown over the years and today many colleges and employers alike support the competition and actively encourage their apprentices to take part.
The final will be held at WorldSkills UK LIVE, at Birmingham’s NEC over three days from 21st to 23rd November 2019.
With two former winners on the panel all ADY competitors can pick up useful hints, tips and advice as well as improving their confidence and showcasing their work to potential future employers just by taking part in the competition – making it an invaluable experience for apprentice painters and decorators looking to take their next steps on their career ladder.