Matt Brown and Jamie Ward in WCG
MAtt Brown collecting award at BWF Matt Brown with Award

An up-and-coming talent of the UK’s woodworking and joinery manufacturing industry has won ‘Trainee of the Year’ at the prestigious British Woodworking Federation (BWF) Awards.

Matt Brown, 35 years old, Royal Leamington Spa College (WCG Group), was recognised for his outstanding achievements, commitment and personal development, beating two other hopefuls shortlisted in the category.

The BWF Awards honour the UK’s very best businesses and individuals within the woodworking and joinery manufacturing industry; an industry worth £3.8 billion to the UK economy.

Jamie Ward, Curriculum Leader Furniture Crafts at Royal Leamington Spa College, said: “Matt has now completed his City of Guilds Level 1 and 2 Furniture Making and Wood machining. During the last two years he has consistently pushed himself and stretched his skills, to become the fine craftsman that he is today.”

Furniture Crafts at Royal Leamington Spa College offers City and Guilds Furniture making and wood machining qualifications Level 1,2 and 3. Skills covered include, hand woodworking skills such as cutting joints by hand or planing, dovetailing, veneering, finishing, laminating, designing and technical drawing. During the courses, the students make various items including a wall cabinet with dovetailed drawers, a mirror frame and a live project, for example a bench.

NEJ Stevenson based in Rugby, who hold the Royal Warrant as cabinetmakers to the Queen, have recently given Matt a job as trainee cabinet maker. Neil Stevenson, managing director at NEJ Stevenson said: “Matt is a quiet and modest man who has shown great courage and determination to re-train in furniture making. He has a great talent enhanced by hard work and commitment to his craft. It was clear from Matt’s first contact with us that he had a gift and passion for our trade and we were delighted to have him join us each week while he trained. We are all delighted that he has won this great award and we look forward to him joining us on a permanent basis on completion of his course.”

Jamie Ward continued: “Matt also gained a commission to make a bench for Kenilworth Town Council and to make a Mayoral bench for the grounds of Kenilworth Castle. Matt produced CAD drawings and an outstanding model for his client meeting and wowed the councillors with his design. Kenilworth Mayor was very pleased with the final result and recognised Matt for his work at the launch of the bench in the grounds of Kenilworth Castle.”

BWF trainee of the year, Matt Brown and Jamie Ward with the Kenilworth bench BWF trainee of the year, Matt Brown

Matt Brown, winner of Trainee of the Year Award, said: “It feels amazing to be recognised for all the hard work I have put in, and a fantastic way to end the Level 2 Furniture Course. The training I’ve received has put me in a position where I feel confident stepping into my new role at N.E.J. Stevenson.  I returned to college in September and am currently completing my Level 3 course and am looking forward to further developing my skills and craftsmanship.

“With more than 16,000 new entrants needed in the wood trades by 2018, compared to 2014, the sector is facing a skills shortage.  Nurturing up-and-coming talent into the industry is one way to help overcome this shortage.”

Iain McIlwee, Chief Executive at the BWF, said: “For many years, we’ve proudly represented the woodworking and joinery industry; our craft puts us at the heart of UK manufacturing.  We had a record number of entries for this year’s awards and it has reminded us again how outstanding and innovative the talent in the UK is; across both businesses and individuals. We’re really pleased to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of individuals who are the next generation of talent, and will help see this great industry continue to thrive.”

The Trainee of the Year Award is one of two awards that celebrate the success of the rising stars of the joinery industry. It celebrates the work and/or commitment of those who have entered the industry through alternative routes, including graduates, A-level students and in-house trainees. They may have achieved some fantastic feats in their work, or shown extraordinary commitment that really adds value to a company's workforce or the production.

The winners of the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) Awards were unveiled at the association’s highly-coveted annual dinner and ceremony in Drapers’ Hall, London, on 24th November.

For further information please visit the BWF website.