Civil engineer Joe Smith, from Tingwall, was named Scotland’s Apprentice of the Year in the Level 4 and above category at the Scottish Apprenticeship Awards last night in Edinburgh.
It was a double celebration as his partner Clare Farmer, a trainee accountant with RSM in Lerwick, was a finalist in the Level 2 category.
The ceremony, sponsored by Skills Development Scotland (SDS), was held at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.
Scottish Sea Farms, which employs 420 workers including at sites in Shetland, was also nominated as a finalist in the Large Employer Category.
Mr Smith, 22, who works for Tulloch Developments, has worked his way up from being a ground worker and plant operator to being responsible for teams of colleagues across a number of projects.
He began his Chartership qualifications with the Institute of Civil Engineers earlier this month.
Mr Smith said: “It’s unbelievable, I was completely speechless and I am really honoured. It was never expected but what a way to round up my apprenticeship.
“I would say to anyone thinking about an apprenticeship to go for it, they won’t regret it. It is the way forward and it is the best thing I have ever done.”
Mr Smith’s construction technical apprenticeship has given him a range of skills that have enabled his employer to tender for larger projects where these qualifications are required.
Despite his age he has site-managed projects including land reclamation, tarring six miles of road at the Shetland Gas Plant, setting out works for an airport runway approach and constructing a suspended walkway under a bridge.
Mr Smith, a former Anderson High School pupil, also acknowledged the benefits of more experienced colleagues sharing their knowledge with him.
He said: “The gas plant was interesting because there was a lot more health and safety involved which made it quite intense. It is very satisfying when everyone has done their bit and the work is completed.”
Mr Smith had sole responsibility for a demolition project at a remote water treatment plant and managed the team which completed the work on time and to a high standard.
SDS chief executive Damien Yeates said: “I want to congratulate Joe on his award and wish him well for what I am sure will be a very successful career. These awards highlight how work based learning and apprentices are helping to build Scotland’s workforce of the future.”
Scottish employment minister Keith Brown added: “Congratulations to the apprentices who have been recognised for their hard work and dedication.
“These inspiring success stories show the real benefit apprenticeships make to individuals, employers and the Scottish economy.
“We have already supported more than 128,000 new Modern Apprenticeship starts in the last parliamentary term, and our commitment to 30,000 Modern Apprenticeships by 2020 means more people and employers will be able to benefit from work-based learning.”