A Ballymena man has been crowned Apprentice of the Year 2014 after beating off tough opposition in a province wide competition..
Gareth Harkness, 19, is completing his apprenticeship in Engineering at Northern Regional College, Ballymena and is employed by Ryobi Aluminium Castings in Carrickfergus, who produce car engine castings that are distributed worldwide.
The awards ceremony, organised by the Department for Employment and Learning, was held in Hillsborough Castle.
Congratulating the winners, Minister for Employment and Learning Dr Stehen Farry said: “I congratulate Gareth, the Apprentice of the Year, and all the other apprentices here today on their achievements and wish them continued success in their chosen careers. Gareth is an excellent example of how an apprentice can form an integral part of a company.
“Apprenticeships are an efficient and effective means for matching supply and demand in an economy: this is why delivering a world class system through my Department’s current review of apprenticeships is essential.”
Barry Ferris, Ryobi Aluminium Castings, said: “Gareth is rated highly amongst management and staff and is meticulous about his work. He has shown great ability, and his first project led to significant savings for the company.
“Since this he has become involved in higher level products, coming up with innovative ideas and solutions. His strengths reside in his ability to identify faults and if necessary redesign products, reducing downtime whilst maintaining a close eye on quality. Without doubt Gareth’s work is way beyond the remit of an apprentice and is certainly on par with experienced engineers. His future with Ryobi is very promising and his contribution greatly appreciated.”
Among the other finalists for the Apprentice of the Year 2014 Award was Michael Surgenor from Ballyclare,who works for Philip Lamont in Ballymena and trains with Northern Regional College, Ballymena.