A RUNCORN grave digger has been named 2014 Halton Apprentice of the Year.

Marcus Burke, aged 25, beat tough competition to win the award which was presented at a gala evening at Lord Derby’s estate in Knowsley on Friday, June 20.

Marcus started as a cemetery operative apprentice in 2012 and has gained a NVQ level two in horticulture at Reaseheath College and is now a qualified crematorium technician.

Marcus, from Brookvale, said: “I feel it is an honour. Being in a cemetery, it is a very sensitive subject.

“We want everything to be spot on.

“I enjoy taking on new challenges. I am now a supervisor at the crematorium. I have always had a mature attitude. I consider myself an old head on young shoulders.

“I am very strong inside. When people are bereaved and upset, I can do something to help them.

“Making the cemetery look nice is satisfying.”

Former Halton High pupil Marcus cuts grass, trims hedges and plants and tends flowers and shrubs at Runcorn and Widnes cemeteries.

He added: “I always take pride in what I do. Doing a job where everything is on display for the public is very rewarding.”

Michelle Carter, Halton Council’s cemeteries and crematorium manager, said: “We are very proud of Marcus. He is very willing, works very hard and has achieved a lot.

“We have seven staff on the ground and two other apprentices. The whole team do a great job.”

Greater Merseyside Learning Providers Federation (GMLPF) sponsored the Liverpool City Region Apprenticeship Awards.

Debbie Tagoe, chairman of GMLPF said: “The awards are a very important event as they bring the local communtiy together and allow us to celebrate the hard-working, high achieving individuals in our area.”

Shortlisted candidates for Halton Apprentice of the Year 2014 included Adam Condron of Midas Engineering, who trains at Riverside College and Christopher Smith from landscaping at Halton Council and studies at Reaseheath College.