A SOUTHAMPTON apprentice is on cloud nine after securing a major national award.

Nathan Jones, of South Coast Building Supplies, has been named the Apprentice of the Year (Level 2) by national trade body, the Builders Merchants Federation.

The 19-year-old - who works at the company’s Southampton East branch in Dibles Wharf, Belvidere Road - was announced the national winner in front of hundreds of people from across the industry at the BMF Members’ Awards Dinner, held at St George’s Park, Burton upon Trent.

Nathan said: “I feel quite overwhelmed, it didn’t really sink in until I was actually at the awards.

“In fact, I didn’t realise how big the ceremony was and the stature of the event, and that made me feel proud of myself.

“I had played the whole thing down beforehand and didn’t think that it was anything that major, but when people came up and started congratulating me I was really proud.”

Representing a significant part of the national economy, the BMF has 701 merchant and supplier companies in its membership, who have combined sales of £31.7 billion and employ more than 130,300 people.

Nathan added: “I didn’t start off thinking about working in this industry.

“I had thought about constructing houses, but not selling building products such as timber and block.

“I started off in the yard, working with the team, building a rapport with the management and gaining a forklift licence.

“I then moved on to the trade counter, where I am now, building relationships with customers, working alongside colleagues and maintaining a high level of professionalism.

“Every day is different and the work is varied, being on the counter, dealing with customers, ticketing, ordering stock, whatever I do I really enjoy it.

“I can’t thank the team enough for their support, they understand apprentices and take their time to help me and not just point out my mistakes.”

BMF chief executive, John Newcomb said: “Talented people such as Nathan are the future of the builders’ merchants and materials industry and we are delighted to see his commitment and enthusiasm recognised.

“Many people don’t associate our sector with a clear and exciting career path, but there’s a wealth of opportunities available and people with determination and ambition will find that their efforts are well-rewarded.”