THE 2017 Irvine Trades’ Apprentice of the Year is Blair Larmour of UPM, the paper mill company in Irvine.

Blair, from Kilwinning, was chosen from a shortlist of 35 nominations for this year’s principal award.

A Junior Apprentice of the Year was also named at Friday night’s presentation ceremony.

The honour went to Jake Gilchrist of Troon, an employee of South Ayrshire Council.

The main prizes – a cheque for £1,000 for the winner and a trophy for the employer – were presented to Gordon McLean, Technical Director of UPM Caledonian after the gala dinner.

He accepted the award on behalf of Blair who was on holiday in Portugal and couldn’t attend the event in Irvine’s new Portal centre.

Blair is an instrument technician at the Meadowhead plant and Jake is a groundkeeper at Dalmilling Golf Course, Ayr.

Among the 200 guests at the event in the Portal were representatives of businesses from all over Ayrshire, as well as the three local authorities.

The awards format this year was changed following the most extensive ever search for worthy candidates with the competition being widened to take in the whole of Ayrshire for the first time.

The judges interviewed all shortlisted candidates, taking into account a number of key factors relevant to the employability of each, including skills level, personal attributes, longer term ambitions and relationship with others in the workforce.

Judging panel for 2017 were Ronnie Fergus, chairman (Incorporated Trades); David Watt, Director, Institute of Directors, Scotland; Heather Dunk, Principal and Chief Executive, Ayrshire Colleges; Jackie Galbraith, Vice Principal, Ayrshire Colleges; Sir Iain MacMillan, Chairman, Strathclyde Business School Advisory Board and former CBI Director (Scotland); Gio Benedetti, Businessman and Entrepreneur; and Brian Donohoe, Awards Organiser.

Main speaker on Friday was controversial lawman Donald Findlay QC and Master of Ceremonies was Willie Young, both with high-profile legal and football backgrounds.

Entertainment was provided by North Ayrshire Schools Pipe Band and North Ayrshire Senior Band Ensemble.

Fundraising at the dinner included a prize draw and a silent auction with a host of high value items donated by friends of the Trades.

The Incorporated Trades of Irvine is an organisation with a history going back to 1646 when its Seal of Cause was granted.

The Crafts listed on the Seal of Cause were Hammermen, Weavers, Tailors, Cordiners, Skinners, Wrights and Squaremen and Coopers – and all seven are all still active.

The purpose of the Seal of Cause was to give the Trades some control over standards within the craft and a limit on the numbers in practice within the Burgh boundary.

Apprentices were recruited, trained and supervised and it was only journeymen of a suitable standard who were employed.

Those who could not or would not meet the standards set were prohibited from working.

This was felt necessary to protect the livelihood of the town’s 100 master craftsmen, which, with their apprentices, journeymen and families, accounted for something like a third of the Royal Burgh’s population.

This year’s shortlisted nominations were:

Amy O’Rourke, North Ayrshire Council; Jake Gilchrist, South Ayrshire Council; Grant Walker, South Ayrshire Council; Darryl, South Ayrshire Council; Arran McGarvie, South Ayrshire Council; Morgan Thomas, South Ayrshire Council; Mark MacKenzie, South Ayrshire Council; Jordan Matthews, GSK; Sean Fleming, GSK; Cameron Wilson, South Ayrshire Council; William Roberts, UTC Aerospace Systems; Luke Paton, Spirit AeroSystems; David Mills, Hillhouse Quarry Group; Paul McKenna, Stagecoach West Scotland; Stephanie Roney, East Ayrshire Council; Leevi Stebbings, East Ayrshire Council; Scott Cairns, Ardagh Glass; Mark McColl, Ardagh Glass; Tracy Govan, GE Caledonian; Stuart Good, GE Caledonian; Aidan McKintyre; Aidan McKintyre, GE Caledonian; Kerr Bryant, GE Caledonian; Jonathan McKillop, GE Caledonian; Connor Bell, GE Caledonian; Craig Love, Barratt Homes; Keir Adrain, MacKenzie Construction; William Tattersall, North Ayrshire Council; Nathan Porte, South Ayrshire Council; Emma Russell, South Ayrshire Council; David Hunter, Braehead Foods; Callum Caswell, GSK; Lauren Barbour, North Ayrshire Council; Greig Russell, Cunninghame Housing Association; Andrew Hunter, UPM Caledonian; and Blair Larmour, UPM Caledonian.