A Plymouth-based naval officer has been given a prestigious award for his role in guiding a Plymouth college in a Royal Navy engineering challenge. Warrant Officer (WO1) Andy Welch became UTC Plymouth’s Number 1 trainer to prepare a team of students for competing in the 2017 Junior Leaders Field Gun Competition. In recognition of his hard work and commitment in training the UTC Plymouth team, Andy has been presented with the Royal Navy Endeavour Cup.

Andy Welch, together with UTC Plymouth teachers Simon Pykett and Sophie Carpenter, has been an architect of success for the college’s Field Gun crew. The crew competes annually in the Junior Leaders Field Gun Competition, held at HMS Collingwood, near Portsmouth. This event attracts 18 crews from across the Royal Navy, the Army, Air Force and Cadets, as well as other University Technical Colleges from around the country.

The UTC Plymouth team has gone from strength to strength under Andy Welch’s ever-watchful leadership, since they started in 2016. Approaching the challenge with his customary enthusiasm and tenacity, Andy led UTC Plymouth to 6th place in this year’s Grand Final in July, making UTC Plymouth the highest placed technical college in the competition nationally.

Andy was joined by a support team comprising Petty Officer Singe Hannington-Daley HMS Scott, Marine Connor Moore HMS Drake, HMS Vanguard CPO Taylor, AV Jemma Gibson COMATG and L Logs Tom Lockyear HM Sub, who trained the team through a week-long programme at Collingswood.

The team gained sponsorship for their field gun kit and travel expenses. Dominic Tucker from Plymouth University’s INSPIRE programme, Matthew Hibbert from Sutton Harbour Holdings, and Wayne Chinook from Princess Yachts were the sponsors, and they all attended the awards ceremony at UTC Plymouth. Teacher Simon Pykett said: “The team are really grateful for all our sponsorship support and their funding played a key role in our success.”

Andy Welch offered his services as Number 1 Trainer to the UTC Plymouth Team voluntarily, and to impressive effect, despite having a busy career at HMNB Devonport FOST. At the awards ceremony, Andy gave a step-by-step account of the competition to guests that included sponsors, parents and UTC Plymouth governors. He said: “It was a truly inspirational experience for us as trainers and the crew and I am fiercely proud of what we have achieved and how we can take what lessons we have learned into our future lives and careers.”

During the awards ceremony, the Endeavour Cup was passed to UTC Plymouth Principal Polly Lovell, Principal and Chair of Governors Nick Buckland OBE for safekeeping, along with framed team shirts. These items will be displayed proudly at UTC Plymouth. Ms Lovell shared her enthusiasm with the audience: “UTC Plymouth Field Gun crew displayed brilliantly our values of respect, discipline, professionalism, dedication and resilience.” Mr Buckland added: “The experience that our young people gained is priceless. We owe a great deal to the Royal Navy for their commitment to our UTC.”

The 21 young people who took part in the Junior Leaders Field Gun Competition range in age from 16–19 and are all current students at UTC Plymouth. Their team captain Adam Ingleheart spoke passionately about the experience to the audience: “The whole week was incredibly hard, and yet it was rewarding to lead an amazing group of people to great success.” The team are now hoping to build on this success in next year’s competition, which will be held in July 2018.

Young people and parents who would like to discover more about what UTC offers to students are encouraged to attend the college’s Open Day on 25th November. Running from 10am until 2pm, this free event will feature a range of fascinating STEM experiments and workshops. It will also give attendees a chance to sample the UTC’s industry-standard facilities and to talk to staff and current students. Click here to book your place.