Excellence in vocational training

Early in September I was driving along in the sunshine, listening to the radio when I heard that Britain had won a gold medal at the skills Olympics. I had never heard of the skills Olympics and so set out to find out more.

The competition is more correctly called the World Skills Competition and this year 900 competitors from 51 countries tested themselves against tough international standards to reach the pinnacle of excellence in their chosen skilled trade.

The competition has been held every two years for almost 60 years and the 2011 event will be held in London. In 2009 the finals of the competition were held in Calagary in the following categories:

The Social and Personal Services category covers all the skilled areas that are related to the service industry. This encompasses services related to the food and beverage industry as well as the hospitality and personal care. The competition areas included in this area are: Ladies/Mens hairdressing, Beauty Therapy, Confectioner/Pastry Cook, Cooking, Restaurant Service, and Caring.

The Creative Arts and Fashion category covers all the skilled areas that are related to fine arts and fashionable design and creation. This encompasses everything from multi-media creative, interior decoration and fashion. The competition areas included in this area are: Jewellery, Floristry, Fashion Technology and Graphic Design Technology.

The Information and Communication Technology category covers all the skilled areas that are related to information services. This encompasses everything from network creation and maintenance to development and finishing information technologies. The competition areas included in this area are: IT/Software Applications, Web Design, IT PC/Network Support, Information Network Cabling and Offset Printing.

The Manufacturing and Engineering Technology category covers all the skilled areas that are related to industrial development and creation. This encompasses everything from the design, creation, making and maintaining of anything involving electronics and machines. The competition areas included in this area are: Polymechanics/Automation, Manufacturing Team Challenge, Mechatronics, Mechanical Engineer Design – CAD, Welding, Electronics, Mobile Robotics, Sheet Metal Technology, CNC Turning, CNC Milling, Mould Making, Aircraft Maintenance, and Construction Metal Works.

The Construction and Building Technology category covers all the skilled areas that are related to the construction world. This encompasses everything from the foundation, grounds, building, finishing and maintaining of all sorts of buildings. The competition areas included in this area are: Wall & Floor Tiling, Plumbing & Heating, Electrical Installations, Industrial Control, Bricklaying, Stonemasonry, Painting & Decorating, Cabinetmaking, Joinery, Carpentry, Landscape Gardening, Refrigeration, Metal Roofing and Plastering.

The Transportation and Logistics category covers all the skilled areas that are related to the transportation world. This includes creating, repairing and maintaining transportation vehicles. The competition areas included in this area are: Autobody Repair, Automotive Technology and Car Painting.

In support of this global event UKSkills hold competitions throughout the UK, with national winners being celebrated at an annual awards ceremony. Winners go forward to the World Skills event and success at World Skills are taken very seriously by UK Skills;

Competitors are trained by UKSkills to focus on their own performance. They’re not competing against other competitors so much as themselves – their abilities, their expectations.

Each individual competitor who is part of Squad UK has their training overseen by a training manager. This person will be a volunteer professional or tutor from their area of expertise, and will generally be a tutor or lecturer from Further or Higher Education, or a skilled individual with an industry background.

An individual training manager is responsible for coaching the competitor in the build-up to the competition and ensuring that they are proficient in the techniques and skills that will be required.

Training managers are also responsible for judging the WorldSkills competition and play a pivotal role in deciding the criteria for future competitions as WorldSkills Experts.

A training programme is developed to help competitors hone their skills, mental endurance and physical stamina to produce an excellent performance over the 22 hours of competition.

Team UK also have a training session, held this time in July at Brathay, a people development organisation based in Cumbria. This is to help them to develop the mental attitude needed to cope with the pressure and the unexpected that they will experience at WorldSkills. It also helps develop a team spirit.

So, how did UK competitors get on in Calgary?
Team UK won three gold medals:
Adam Smith (Cooking)
Richard Sagar (Electrical Installations)
Mark Nevin (Painting & Decorating)

There were 6 bronze medal winners :
Daniel Cain (Autobody Repair)
Trevor Woods (Joinery)
Joe Massie (Floristry)
Charlotte Burford (Beauty Therapy)
Katie Watson (Restaurant Service)
Stewart Wright (Aircraft Maintenance)

And additionally 13 medals of excellence were awarded to British competitors.

Most competitors come from colleges, trade skills councils and training organisations but companies and employers are able to enter their employees. The entry for 2009 round of competitions opens on 5th October so if you feel you have young person who should get involved then visit the UKSkills website.

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