A YOUNG jeweller from Essex has struck gold at a prestigious national skills competition after months of training.

Southminster resident Dan James, 17, secured top spot in the Fine Jewellery Making competition at the WorldSkills UK National Finals.

The finals were months in the making for the youngster after regional heats and extra tuition.

Dan said: "I couldn’t believe it when my name was read out – winning gold at the national finals was a real pinch me moment.

"It hasn’t been easy and I have put in loads of extra hours of training during evenings and weekends, but it all proved worthwhile.

"A huge amount of thanks goes to my training manager for getting behind me in the way they did. Hopefully this win will open many doors in the future."

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More than 400 students and apprentices took part in the finals.

They learned of their victory during a special live programme from Channel 4’s Packed Lunch studios - presented by Steph McGovern.

Steph said: “That is just brilliant. Everyone should be jumping for joy. What an early Christmas present that is. He must have put in some graft to smash it like that.”

Ben Blackledge, deputy CEO of WorldSkills UK, said: “Dan is a true inspiration. To have excelled after such a difficult year is a testament to his drive and determination.

“Skills are the lifeblood of every economy, creating high quality jobs, rewarding careers, inward investment and growth.”

WorldSkills UK specialises in selecting and training young people to represent the UK at international competitions.