Super Stuart seals UK award glory

Date published: 17 December 2018

Stuart Smith, an apprentice at Hopwood Hall College, has won the most prestigious student award in the UK for plastering, Student of the Year, at the Plasterers’ Company Training Awards 2018.

Stuart travelled down to the glitzy London event as one of three finalists picked from trainee plasterers across the whole of the UK.

Little did he know he would be chosen as the number one student plasterer and receive a monetary prize plus a copy of Millars, the Plasterers’ Bible.

Formerly a bus driver, difficulties in Stuart’s life, including alcohol and drug dependency, along with a short period in prison, did not deter him from seeking to redirect his life in a positive and meaningful way.

A Hopwood Hall College Open Day motivated him to embark on a new career. 

Although initially a little daunted by the challenges, the College helped him to grow his self-belief and confidence, resulting in him representing Hopwood Hall College in the Junior Skillbuild competition.

The College were so impressed that they offered Stuart an Apprenticeship in the Plastering department and he has gone from strength to strength.

Now, after being nominated by his Plastering Tutor, Rob Wilson, Stuart can lay claim to being the best plastering student in the UK.

“It feels amazing to have won. I had no expectations of winning, but I’ve worked hard and it’s led to this, it feels good to have the recognition,” said Stuart.

“The day itself was great. Rob and I were on the train to London first thing in the morning, then it was straight into the ceremony in a hall with some amazing ornate fibrous plasterwork.

“After a few champagnes for Rob and orange juices for me, they announced third place.

"My name wasn’t read out and I thought ‘no way, second place is great’.

"Then when second place was announced as someone else I was stunned.

"My hands were shaking and it brought a tear to my eye collecting my award in front of the hundreds of applauding attendees.

"I’ve been clean for four-and-a-half years now and I feel just as proud of this award as I do that.

“I’d like to thank my tutor Rob for putting me forward for the award and British Gypsum for their sponsorship of my course.

“My next aim is to become a tutor, seeing Level 1 students join us with little to no plastering skills but leave us having mastered the trade is something that gives me great pleasure.”

Tutor Rob was full of praise for his prizewinning student.

He said: “Stuart has turned out to be the best Apprentice and Technician I have ever had.

"Whilst I have taught him I’ve really seen the determination to succeed in everything he applies himself to.

“He has huge amounts of natural talent and we’re now looking at how we can progress his career into a teaching role.

"I think he will make a fantastic tutor.”

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