A HAMPSHIRE man has won a regional competition and stands a chance of being crowned “Apprentice of the Year”.

Ben Cornmell won the South East Apprenticeship Awards ceremony in Guildford earlier in the month where he was selected for the Apprentice of the Year 2019 final.

Run by the National Apprenticeship Service the awards raise awareness of apprenticeships at all levels and across all industries.

The 22-year-old from Chandlers Ford works at chimney sweep and stove installation company and studies at Eastleigh College.

Ben who is autistic was up against more than 1,000 others to win his place and is the first supported apprentice to ever make it through to a regional final of the awards.

Supported apprenticeships are designed for learners with special educational needs.

A year into an 18-month apprenticeship he works alongside his uncle Neil Cornmell at Waltham Black in Bishops Waltham,

His duties include introducing himself to clients on arrival, smoke testing to check the integrity of the chimney, providing safety and sustainable fuel advice and helping with repairs.

Ben is learning to fit stoves and is ambitious to take over an area of his own once he is fully qualified.

Ben said: “I like to be active so having a job that isn’t desk-bound is important to me, and I like the variety and meeting new people.

“Working with Neil, with the support from the apprenticeship team at Eastleigh College, means provides one-to-one coaching and has enabled me to get new skills. I like being trusted with more responsibility, and it’s good to know I am working towards a qualification.

Neil added: “We initially offered Ben a supported internship. I’m also his uncle and welcomed the opportunity to help him gain some work experience and employability skills. He did so well, and this naturally progressed to a formal apprenticeship. I have previously done an apprenticeship myself so had a good understanding of them; the way they help shape someone in the culture of the firm and encourage good working habits from the start of their career."