Carpentry apprentice Harry Halligan, 22, from Bashley, New Milton has fought off stiff competition to be crowned Apprentice of the Year 2013 in a nationwide contest.

Mr Halligan was one of three finalists selected from entrants across the UK to pit their woodworking skills against each other in a practical competition that was hosted in Ireland earlier this month.

Organised by the Wood Panel Industries Federation (WPIF), manufacturers’ Norbord and SmartPly, and resin supplier Huntsman in support of the JOSB Done campaign, which has been setup to promote the use of Oriented Strand Board (OSB), the competitors were tasked with building a piece of furniture out of OSB in just 90 minutes.

Mr Halligan was joined in the final by his colleague Dean Davis after both apprentices were nominated by their employer, Pennyfarthing Homes. They were joined by Shaun Kennedy from Mactaggart & Mickel Homes based in Glasgow.

The competition was held in one of the two OSB mills in UK and Ireland, and was judged by industry experts.

Speaking about the decision to award the top title to Mr Halligan, operations director, Jim McCann, said: “The competition was incredibly close throughout and we had two very strong and sturdy chair designs from Dean and Shaun. However, Harry’s picnic table and chairs set, considering it was created in just 90 minutes and used only one 8 x 4ft OSB panel, was outstanding. Reducing waste remains a top priority in the construction industry and the fact that Harry used so much of the board, making the most of his materials was key in our decision to award him the title.

“All three competitors were passionate about what they do and the level of workmanship and attention to detail was outstanding. I would say that both Hampshire and Glasgow should be really pleased that they have such fantastic carpenters working among them.”

Having accepted the award Mr Halligan said: “OSB is a material we work with on a daily basis, however, I’ve never been asked to make a piece of furniture out of it before. I had my design prepared ahead of the final and I’d made some practice attempts beforehand, however, nothing could prepare me for the final itself. We were all conscious that this was a timed competition, but in the end we finished with five minutes to spare. It was impossible to tell who was going to win, as both Dean and Shaun had created such strong entries, so I was really surprised when my name was called out.”

Alastair Kerr, director general of the WPIF and spokesperson for the JOSB Done campaign concluded: “This is the second year that we have held the JOSB Done Apprentice Of The Year competition and the standard of entrants continues to get better and better.

“I’d like to pass on my congratulations to Harry, Dean and Shaun for their fantastic workmanship. It is clear that they are destined to become master craftsmen in their industry and we wish them all the best for the future.”