In a class of their own

Team UK shines on the world stage at WorldSkills Leipzig 2013

16 August 2013

A City & Guilds-trained furniture maker has won a prestigious gold medal at the WorldSkills show in Leipzig, Germany, in July. George Callow, 21, beat young craftspeople from 23 other countries to win first place in the cabinet making competition. He was also named ‘best of nation’ among the 33 apprentices who formed Team UK at the event, which sees trainees compete in a variety of skill sectors.

‘It felt incredible when they announced I had won,’ says George. ‘My dad, mum and girlfriend were in the audience and they were ecstatic.’ Winning gold was of particular significance for George, who used a small plane and hammer, the only tools that remained of a kit owned by his grandfather, to make a bureau that won him the medal. ‘I’ve been making things since I was a child, and was given a saw and hammer for my fifth birthday,’ he says.

George used his talents to complete a diploma in Furniture Making at Chichester College, before going on to do an apprenticeship at Rolls Royce, followed by working at Cimitree, a bespoke furniture business in Hampshire. ‘At work I’ll be given a drawing and be told to go away and make it to a strict deadline and to a very high standard, so my job lends itself quite well to doing skills competitions. But my time at college was also essential, as I got to expand my creativity and explore my ideas.’

At WorldSkills Leipzig, competitors in cabinet making were given 22 hours to create a piece of furniture from an unseen technical drawing. ‘Working from a design and coping with spontaneous changes are two of my strongest points,’ he says.

‘The biggest challenge was the pressure of having thousands of eyes on you at any given time. I just put on my ear defenders and got into the zone.’

Working alongside representatives from other countries is also an added pressure for the young competitors, and George was working in between trainees from Germany and Switzerland during the competition: ‘The way I coped with the pressure was to think, “I’m not competing against the people around me, I’m competing against the piece,”’ he says. ‘If I can do my personal best then I’ll be happy with that.’

In total, Team UK won two gold, one silver, three bronze medals and 17 Medallions for Excellence in skills including bricklaying, autobody repair and aircraft maintenance. Ashley Terron, 21, a bricklayer from Warrington, was the second Briton to win gold, securing a record score from judges during his competition.

‘It hasn’t really sunk in that I am the best young bricklayer in the world,’ says Ashley.

‘The last few months have been really tough fitting my training around work and family, but it has been worth it. I want to show the UK how apprenticeships and vocational training can enable young people to gain a real qualification and a real future.’

Prime Minister David Cameron congratulated Team UK, saying, ‘British ambition and ingenuity have once again taken on and beaten the best in the world.’

Business Secretary Vince Cable added that the medal tables showed that, when it comes to skills, Britain has ‘world-class ability’. 


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