Four students in their third year of carpentry and joinery studies at college are the first to receive an inaugural Third Year Student Award from the Institute of Carpenters (IoC). Matthew Mead, a student at the Building Crafts College in London, won the overall prize for the best Third Year Student, and receives a set of tools kindly donated by Axminster Tools & Machinery. Martin Gilmore, student at Newcastle College, Phillip Bentley, student at Accrington & Rossendale College (part of the Nelson & Colne College Group), and Owen Phillips, student at Coleg Sir Gâr’s Ammanford Campus in Wales, all received High Commended for their entries, and an Axminster Tools voucher.

This is the first IoC Third Year Student Award, held amongst the colleges which hosted and launched a ‘City Hub’ grouping for the Institute in the last 18 months. The Institute plans to run the award scheme again in 2021, widening it further amongst its network of 30 College members. Judges of the Award were IoC board member Martin Corton of Rainleaf Artisan Flooring, YouTube carpentry & joinery celebrity and IoC Fellow, Robin Clevett of UK Construction and the SkillBuilder channel, and Institute President, Geoff Rhodes.

Martin Corton of Rainleaf and IoC Board member, commented: “It was a great pleasure to judge the entrants for the IoC’s Third Year Student Awards. All entrants displayed great craft ability, and thorough technical knowledge, but the highlight was the exceptional attitude from all four entrants. Carpentry & joinery is a ‘calling’ and it looks like these four students have a wonderful future ahead of them.”

FIoC Robin Clevett, added: These four students have demonstrated professionalism, dedication and perseverance in gaining their skills, and should be a beacon for new entrants choosing a craft career. I was particularly pleased that there was a wide range of skills demonstrated, ranging from traditional roof construction to fine joinery. Encouraging the right calibre of entrants into the UK Construction industry is more important than ever as we’ve a great need for craft skills.

“This year’s winner demonstrated a standard of craftsmanship that would rival other craftsmen from around the world,” Robin Clevett continued. “Our strong craft heritage in the UK will be in safe hands going forward if we can deliver the training and encourage new entrants to gain a similar level of skill those witnessed in this year’s contest. I look forward to seeing next year’s award entrants and hope to encourage new students to take part in this initiative via my own social media channels and via others I work with.”

Sales director Darran McLeod at Axminster Tools & Machinery, who kindly provided the prizes, said: “As a business, Axminster Tools are passionate about woodworking and helping to build a sustainable future for the industry. In view of that, we actively seek to support the education of vital woodworking skills. We work with The Furniture Makers’ Company in helping to bridge the ‘making’ skills gap and so supporting The Institute of Carpenters with an award for emerging new talent seemed like a natural fit for us. We’re proud to be in the fortunate position to do what we can for the makers of the future and help them with the first steps to a successful career in the woodworking industry.”

Concluding, Geoff Rhodes, IoC President summarised: “I was really so delighted to see the high quality of entries from these colleges, spread across the UK. All of the students individually can be very proud to have been selected as a candidate by their respective colleges, and I am sure that each of them will progress successfully through their remaining time in college and on into their professional careers, at this time of a national craft skills shortage.”


  • Building Crafts College, London: overall winner Matthew Mead: 

David Dowdles, Principal of the Building Crafts College stated: “This is a marvellous achievement recognising the efforts of Matthew Mead and his tutors, and reflecting the partnership between the Building Crafts College and the Institute of Carpenters”

Left to right: Matthew Mead, overall winner and student at The Building Crafts College London, left, and IoC president Geoff Rhodes, right

  • Coleg Sir Gâr, South West Wales, student Owen Phillips, Highly Commended:

Wayne Savory, head of section at Coleg Sir Gâr said: “We are delighted and proud to see Owen get recognition for his commitment and devotion to excellence in the trade, and would like to thank the institute for the opportunity given to one of our dedicated and accomplished Carpentry students.”

Brian Herbert, carpentry tutor at Coleg Sir Gâr added:“During the three years I have known Owen, he has demonstrated tremendous commitment in his college work. He has represented the college gaining first place in the Inspiring Skills Wales competition and achieved a merit at a WorldSkills regional competition which is a remarkable achievement considering his commitments outside college looking after his disabled sister and working on the family farm. We are pleased to see him now venturing into self-employment and already gaining a good customer base in his local community. Owen is also an individual who despite the responsibilities and expectations placed on him outside his training, has consistently striven for excellence in all that he does. “

Highly Commended winner Owen Phillips also said: “During my time in college, I was encouraged by my course tutor Brian Herbert, to join the Institute of Carpenters and get involved in competitions, which resulted in me competing in Welsh finals and winning several medals. I have gained a lot of skills in all aspects of carpentry and joinery at Coleg Sir Gâr and I really enjoyed my time there.”

Left to right: Wayne Savoury, head of section, Coleg Sir Gâr, left; Owen Phillips, centre; Brian Herbert, carpentry tutor, Coleg Sir Gâr, right.

  • Accrington & Rossendale College, student Phillip Bentley, Highly Commended:

Phillip Bentley said: “I’m very happy to have won the award – I have never taken part in a competition before so to receive a Highly Commended accolade is an amazing feeling. I really enjoy Carpentry and Joinery and I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I’ve always been a more practical and hands on person and I love the trade. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and have an eye for detail too, and I think that has definitely paid off for me in this competition.

“My Apprenticeship has really helped to improve my skillset and my confidence, and working with a range of equipment and tools on a day to day basis for my employer is further developing my abilities. When I’m at Accrington & Rossendale College, I have fantastic tutors who are knowledgeable and supportive, and the facilities are very good. It’s the best place to do Carpentry and Joinery and I would highly recommend the college to anyone wanting to pursue a career in the industry.”

Chris Morris, Phillip’s tutor at Accrington & Rossendale College, added: “I’m very pleased for Phillip – he is so deserving of this award for the dedication he has shown to his craft. Apprentices like Phillip are the reason I love my job – he is a brilliant listener and a quicker learner, and it has been fantastic to see how his skills and self-belief have grown over his years at College. The window frame he submitted was a very high-quality piece of woodwork, and he should be extremely proud of what he has achieved.”

Left to right: Chris Morris, Carpentry & Joinery Tutor, Accrington & Rossendale College, left; Phillip Bentley, Highly Commended

  • Newcastle College, student Martin Gilmore, Highly Commended:

Craig Cowan, head of construction at Newcastle College commented: “It is fantastic to see that Martin has been Highly Commended by the IoC, particularly as this award recognises both his technical ability and his fantastic attitude and work ethos. We’re all really proud of Martin for this achievement and it is thoroughly deserved.

Picture: left to right: John Wade, Tutor, Newcastle College; Martin Gilmore, Highly Commended, centre; Stevie Taylor, Technical Consultant, Axminster Tools & Machinery

“Competitions like this are really important and offer excellent opportunities to students like Martin, driving them to develop their skills and gain hands-on experience, two vital things that are at the centre of everything Newcastle College offers,” concluded Craig.

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