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I wanted to thank the AJ for all the support you show to apprentices who often fail to get the recognition they deserve.

I recently attended the Apprentice of the Year Awards Ceremony at the National Construction College. Among other awards it celebrates the success of every steeplejack and lightning conductor apprentice studying at Bircham Newton in completing their training. The ultimate accolade is the Apprentice of the Year Award. One apprentice from each trade is selected. In the steeplejack industry, apprentices compete for the coveted Ted Fuller Award. Andrew Raw, an apprentice with Bailey International Steeplejack Co, won the award.

The equivalent award for lightning conductor lads is the AW Elliot Award. This year's winner, Jay Stefan Crew, is an apprentice with JW Gray Lightning Protection.

The support you have shown has been invaluable in raising the apprentice shortage issue and drawing attention to the work the National Construction College, CITB and the ATLAS Training Group are doing to address this.

I believe there are two types of organisations; those that train and those that poach. If you don't train your staff you have to try and poach from those that do. Companies that invest in training are more successful than those that do not.

Now is the time to stop the poaching and start the investment. Let's make 2006 a record year for apprentice intake and ensure a viable and profitable future for the industry!

John Ashmore, Chairman ATLAS Training Group

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