A talented apprentice is delighted after an outstanding performance in a prestigious national painting and decorating skills competition.

After winning her heat in the regional qualifiers of SkillBuild, Accrington and Rossendale College student Shelby Fitzakerly finished in an outstanding second place as 78 construction trainees competed in the national final – battling to be crowned winner in their chosen trade.

At the awards event, Shelby was awarded silver and received a trophy and a £750 cash prize.

SkillBuild the largest multi-trade competition in the UK for construction trainees and apprentices and is one of the longest-running construction skills competitions.

Shelby, 19, from Gisburn, knew wanted to pursue a practical career where she could put her academic and technical skills to the test.

Shelby went head-to-head with seven other apprentices in the final of the painting and decorating category during the three-day final in Milton Keynes and finished the remarkable runner-up.

Competitors were tested on their technical abilities by an expert panel of judges. The final tested the individual’s knowledge and skills, and ability to work under pressure when following plans, hanging a wallpaper mural, freehand paint application, paint coverage and preparing and painting woodwork against the clock.

Shelby said: “The competition was amazing. Taking part gave me a real confidence boost and helped me improve my skills like my timing and following a plan.

“I couldn’t believe it when they called my name. I was in shock! It was great getting through to the finals and I didn’t expect anything else. It was a really good experience.”

Still in the first year of her three-year apprenticeship working for former Accrington and Rossendale College student Chris Penny, she plans to become a painter and decorator once qualified.

Shelby’s tutor Simon Whitaker, Curriculum Lead for Painting and Decorating at the College, has been working closely with Shelby to get her ready to take part – and ultimately succeed.

He congratulated her on her achievement, adding: “Shelby did exceptionally well and her workspace was incredibly accurate. I’m so proud of her. I’ve been doing this a long time and to get second in the final in the first 12 months of her training is unheard of. I think she’ll win it next year!”

Before joining Accrington and Rossendale College, Shelby put her skills to good use painting watercolour images during the Covid pandemic, which she sold to raise funds for the NHS. She raised around £1,000.

Andy Parkin, Assistant Principal for Technical and Adult Education, said: “Accrington and Rossendale College is a beacon for technical excellence, with strong employer links and unrivalled, tailored, tutor support. This is evident in Shelby’s success, not only within this competition, but within her Apprenticeship as well.”