AN EAST Lancashire trainee is celebrating bagging the top prize in a national award.

Jack Rothwell, 25, a graduate trainee at James Hargreaves Plumbing Depot, which has branches across East Lancashire, finished as top student in the latest Manchester Open Learning (MOL) modules run in conjunction with the Worshipful Company of Builders’ Merchants (WCBM).

The former Oakhill College and Clitheroe Grammar School pupil scored a number of distinctions and beat off competition from hundreds of fellow students to pick up a £1,000 cheque and special tankard at WCBM’s annual city and awards presentation luncheon held at Vintners’ Hall in London.

But he almost missed the ceremony.

He said: “When the invitation arrived I thought it was just for completing the modules and I didn’t really want to have to take a day off work. My bosses thought otherwise, insisted I should go and what a surprise I got when the results were announced!

“It turned out that I had scored the most number of points of all the participants from across the country and I just thought, wow, that’s amazing. Mum went along with me and we were both taken aback. It was surreal.”

Jack, who lives in the village of Barrow, is no stranger to academic achievement having earned a Degree in Business and IT at Manchester Metropolitan University and a Masters in Business Management.

While at University he regularly helped out part-time at James Hargreaves Plumbing Depot, but it was only a couple of years ago that he decided to make plumbing and heating his focus.

“My dad (Gordon, the company’s managing director) pestered for me to go in and help out and I quickly saw the potential for a career. I was offered a five-year training scheme, covering every single aspect of the job and things are moving along well. I am currently based at our Nelson branch and the lads there, particularly manager Mark Kay, have been very helpful.

“The fact that despite massive growth, we remain a family business - started by my grandfather (Bernard) and carried on by my father - makes it an extra special place to work for me.”