In one of the most hotly contested finals yet, Astrid Arnold, a Devon-based carpenter, was announced as the winner of Screwfix Top Tradesperson 2023, proving herself as an exceptionally skilled tradesperson with a passion for helping others.
Astrid, 48, was presented with the award – one of the industry’s most coveted titles – during Screwfix Live, held at Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre, on Friday 22 September.
The carpenter walks away with the prestigious title and ultimate trade bundle worth £20,000, consisting of £10,000 worth of tools, £5,000 worth of technology and £5,000 towards future training. Astrid wants to use this to further existing training programmes that her company, TouchWood South West, currently runs for disadvantaged women in her local community.
Taking part in the final against nine other high-calibre tradespeople from across the UK, Astrid faced a panel of esteemed industry experts, including representatives from Screwfix, the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering, the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting, Screwfix Top Tradesperson 2022 winner, Toby Peacock, and renowned television presenter, journalist and tradesperson Roger Bisby – known for his popular YouTube channel Skill Builder.
Despite being up against the very best of the trade industry, Astrid was a stand-out winner, with her incredibly technical and stunning carpentry work, her focus on sustainability within her business, as well as her passion for supporting women with trade skills.
The judges noted Astrid’s technical carpentry skills, but also her unbeatable customer service – two key attributes for any top tradesperson. Astrid has completed a range of personal and professional development courses to support the growth of her business and improve customer service, as well as a course in the use of CAD to improve the work she can offer for her customers.
Outside of Astrid’s practical skills, the judges were particularly impressed by the broader contribution she has made to the trade industry. Astrid’s company, TouchWood, is a team of tradeswomen that teach a wide range of courses for up-and-coming tradespeople, as well as for DIY-ers, alongside its offering of traditional carpentry services. The firm has also been involved in several charitable initiatives, that particularly support women in the industry, including supporting women who are survivors of domestic violence, starting an initiative called ‘Women Build!’ alongside the probation service. ‘Women Build!’ helps women who are unemployed or on probation with their mental health through carpentry and woodworking, to support them in not only learning a new skill, but helping them develop a path forward for the future.
Astrid said: “I am still in complete shock. After meeting the other finalists and getting to know their stories, I knew the competition would be fierce. Since winning, they have all been so supportive and I just couldn’t be prouder of this recognition for me and my hard-working team.
“The construction industry is currently facing huge challenges from the skills gap to massive sustainability targets set by the government. With only 4% of women in manual trades, it’s clear to me that women have the potential to tackle these challenges with the right support. Winning this award provides visibility for every female tradesperson in the UK and Ireland, highlighting the contribution we are currently making and the potential we have to make in the future.
“I will be using the prize bundle to grow the current training courses we have. I also would like to invest in our work in secondary schools, as I’m passionate about integrating practical skills into the national curriculum and giving young people a chance to explore the incredible opportunities a career in the trade can provide. I’m so excited to upgrade the tools and training we currently offer; my students are going to be over the moon!”
Jack Wallace, Marketing Director at Screwfix, said: “It has been an absolute pleasure to meet the inspirational tradespeople, who are demonstrating excellence in the work they produce for customers and the support they are giving to the next generation of the trade. This year, we saw that our tradespeople are also giving back to their local communities in extraordinary ways – from free boiler installations to those in need, nurturing apprentices in their early careers, to the work Astrid is doing to help people develop these important skills to improve their lives.
“All ten of our Screwfix Top Tradesperson finalists were exceptional this year, but Astrid really blew the judges away with her passion for the industry, her strong work ethic and drive towards making the industry more sustainable, more diverse, and more visible. Astrid’s attention to detail in her carpentry, ability to use her skills and knowledge to do good, and aspirations for increasing awareness of trade skills with young people is reflective of our values as a business. I’m delighted to crown her as our 2023 winner, and I know she will be an incredible ambassador for us and the wider construction industry.”
To find out more about this competition, please visit screwfix.com/stt.
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