Getting ready for WorldSkills 2013

Move aside Olympians - the WorldSkills UK team has arrived

01 July 2013 / Be the first to comment

A team of 34 young people undertook an intense training programme in April to prepare for WorldSkills Leipzig 2013, where they will compete in 30 skill areas ranging from aircraft maintenance to cooking. The show will run from 2 to 7 July, and Team UK is hoping to build on the success of WorldSkills London 2011, where they won five gold, two silver, six bronze medals and 12 Medallions for Excellence, in front of an audience of 200,000.

Representatives experienced the same treatment as the London 2012 Olympic athletes. A week spent at Loughborough University aimed to train them mentally for the pressures of competing, as well as teaching basic skills for handling pressure, such as combating stress and the importance of a proper diet. 

Enhancing skills

The training provided an invaluable lesson for Stephen Smith, confectioner and pastry cook competitor. ‘Not unusually for my career, my diet usually revolves around sugar!’ he says. But when it comes to perfecting his skill, Stephen is nothing but serious and it has taken training in Parisian patisseries, as well as working with top chefs in Germany, to get him where he is today.

‘I was straight back into training the week after I got back from being selected for the WorldSkills UK team,’ says Stephen. ‘At college I spend all my spare time in my kitchen practicing different techniques and developing new products for the final.’ 

Aged 18, Stephen is currently studying for a City & Guilds qualification in Confectionery at Westminster Kingsway College, London. ‘I always knew I was going to cook - I just went with what I was passionate about,’ he says. After becoming interested in pastry cooking in his third year of college, Stephen went on to hone the technical cake decoration, sugar and chocolate sculpting, and hand-layering skills required for excellence in the art. ‘For me it’s all about the artistic side of cooking and a lot of my food is marked on presentation as well as taste,’ says Stephen.

Getting out what you put in

Co-competitor Philip Glasgow, 22, is using his preparation for WorldSkills to reflect on how far he has come since completing a City & Guilds qualification in Carpentry at South West College, Omagh, in his home country of Northern Ireland. ‘You get a bug for competitions - they’re addictive,’ he says, having earned his place in the UK team after excelling in both Northern Ireland and UK national skills competitions.

Philip’s love of competing has always had to exist in balance with his career as a self-employed carpenter. ‘It’s not easy to try and keep a job and train for competitions, especially when I have a lot of work on,’ he says, ‘but you only get out what you put in, so from now until July I’m putting WorldSkills first.’

To perfect his skills, Philip has been going through past carpentry competitions. ‘I’ve been getting as many drawings as I can find from past WorldSkills shows, finding a room in a college where there is space, and making the pieces over and over again,’ he says about his preparation, which includes complex geometry as well as wood carving. ‘It’s quite intense, but so far everything is going according to plan.’

Jaine Bolton, National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) Director and UK Official Delegate to WorldSkills International, says that in a competitive employment environment, NAS understands that many young competitors face the challenge of balancing training with work. ‘Philip’s situation is typical at this level as most of our competitors are employed or self-employed. We know the level of commitment it takes to achieve the international benchmark with WorldSkills and we work really hard to be flexible around our competitors’ work and lives,’ says Jaine.

The UK is currently fifth in the WorldSkills ranking, ahead of France, Germany and China. Team UK secured 13 medals at WorldSkills London 2011, which is the UK’s best-ever result in the 62-year history of the event. ‘We should be phenomenally impressed with what we have achieved at WorldSkills and being ahead of Germany, which has one of the best vocational education programmes in the world,’ says Jaine. ‘It’s all down to the hard work of Team UK, the support they get from experts, and the supportive attitudes of their employers and colleges.'

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