TRAINEE welders, electricians, fitters and machinists are bidding to become team of the year in a contest to find the UK’s leading apprentices.

Nine apprentices at Liebherr Sunderland Works, which builds cranes, have entered the Brathay Apprentice Challenge 2014.

The challenge, which is organised by the National Apprenticeship Service, tests apprentices on their teambuilding, leadership, logistical and communications abilities in a series of tasks over the next few months.

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As part of the project, the Liebherr apprentices are working alongside Southwick Community Project, which is part of the Salvation Army, and are putting their skills to good use by helping renovate rooms in Southwick Community Centre, as well as creating a memorial garden to commemorate the First World War.

The team has also been going into local schools to promote apprenticeships and engineering, taking a portable welding booth to give the students first-hand experience of their work at Liebherr.

More than 110 teams from across the country are taking part in the challenge. They will be whittled down to a final eight at the House of Commons in April, and the finalists will then battle it out to be crowned apprentice team of the year. The winning team will be announced in June.

Ralph Saelzer, managing director of Liebherr Sunderland Works, said: “We are really delighted that our apprentices are taking part in this challenge. It’s good they have the opportunity to put their skills to use in a way that benefits the community, while also testing themselves against other apprentices.”

Godfrey Owen, chief executive of the Brathay Trust, said: “The tasks the teams complete as part of the challenge allow the apprentices to develop a huge range of skills.

These are skills that are not only useful within the challenge but essential for the workplace. It is good to see so many companies, including Liebherr Sunderland Works, engaging their apprentices in such a challenge.”

Karen Woodward, from the National Apprenticeship Service said: “We are pleased to welcome Liebherr Sunderland Works into this year’s Brathay Apprentice Challenge.

“The activities that the apprentices undertake in the challenge are part of an enhanced apprenticeship which benefits both employers and apprentices – employers gain a workforce with transferable skills throughout the business while apprentices themselves become more employable and more likely to be promoted.”