The WorldSKills UK Live final, November 21-23, saw the SkillFRIDGE finalists go head to head to compete for the coveted gold medal.
The finals were held at the NEC in Birmingham and spanned several convention halls, where hundreds of apprentices from a wide range of industries and came together to compete to be the best in their sector. The atmosphere was filled with the nerves and excitement of the young competitors, all focussed on their own specialities.
After competing in regional heats, seven RACHP apprentices made it to the WorldSkills Final. Whilst being scrutinised by the judges, the apprentice’s skills were assessed as they completed a total of four tasks.
Sidney Copus, who won the national SkillFRIDGE trophy, was the front runner going into the WorldSkills Final. In addition to the 2019 apprentices, visitors also saw the return of SkillFRIDGE’s 2018 winner, Dominic Dray, as he competed for a place on Team UK.
Keith Nichols, ex-training manager from Airedale, returns to judge the SkillFRIDGE competition annually, he noted: “I enjoy doing this each year, it really feels like giving back.”
WorldSkills isn’t only about technical standards, but about finding people who are truly passionate about the industry, who exhibit other skills like motivation and determination, but finding someone who could go onto the international competitions too. But following the first task of the competition the apprentices were feeling the pressure.
David Dunn, sales managing director of Toshiba Carrier UK, said: “SkillFRIDGE is a superb initiative. It challenges and rewards young trainees to improve their skills and knowledge, and pursue excellence. We are delighted to once again be supporting the competition as headline sponsor, and look forward to the SkillFRIDGE 2020 events planned for next year.”
Toshiba Carrier, the headline sponsor of SkillFRIDGE, provided a range of equipment for this year’s competition, including Y-joints and headers for the piping test rigs and graphical recreations of Toshiba outdoor units. The company also supplied a number of controls rigs equipped with various interfaces, including its remote controllers and Touch Screen controller.
Another piece of equipment featured at the final was the JAVAC Nitrogen Regulator. It is suitable for testing systems which use R410A refrigerant gas and allows for 300 bar maximum inlet pressure and has a 0-50 bar outlet pressure range. It also includes a ‘T-bar’ handle designed to protect the gauges from impact should the gas bottle get knocked.
On Saturday, the final day of the competition, the apprentices came together to participate in a surprise Saturday feature led by Jacinta Caden.
The feature was based around the classic construction game, marble run, which kept the competitors engaged whilst showcasing their skills to the public without the stress of competing. The task enabled them to use almost all the skills they needed for the competition, as well as showing their ability to follow direction and work as part of a team.
With the theme of this year’s WorldSkills event being ‘Mental Strength’, it is important to draw attention to the benefits events like this can provide. Former SkillFRIDGE competitor, Chris Baillie, acted as a judge at this year’s competition, he noted: “This competition changed my life.”
He continued: “I used to suffer from quite bad anxiety, I even used to get sick before competing, but through this competition I was able to improve my confidence and communication skills, as well as my skills within the sector.
“I like being a judge now because I know what they are going through, I’ve been through it. Knowing what competing did for me, along with the support and help I received from the judges, is what really motivated me to keep participating. I like the idea that I can give that back to the younger generation.”
Following the two days of competition and Saturday’s feature task, the Gold medal was awarded to Sidney Copus of Space Engineering, certifying him as the SkillFRIDGE Champion of 2019. He commented: “I’m feeling very happy about my win and extremely relieved. After coming top in the regionals, I felt quite a bit of pressure to get a win in the finals and the step up in difficulty was a bit of a surprise.
The win’s given me a little confidence boost, but the biggest thing about it for me is all the support and messages I’ve got from my lecturers, colleagues and friends. Everyone has been really supportive the whole way through and I’m glad to be able to win it for Space and Bath College!”
Ben Wilson of Knights Engineers claimed Silver and Joshua Collins of JD Cooling came away with the Bronze.
In preparing for the competition and keeping cool under pressure, Silver medallist Ben commented that: “I just made sure I was healthy and drinking enough water, concentrating on the task ahead. It was a challenging but great week; I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
He also noted his passion for the industry, saying: “I love that in that you come across new things every day and you never get bored. There’s always more to learn and you get as much out of it as you put in in.”
Mr Dunn added in response to the results of the competition: “On behalf of TCUK congratulations to all those who took part in this year’s competition. As the industry’s national event, it takes a high level of skill, determination and composure to make it through to the finals, and this year was no exception.
“My warmest congratulations to Sidney on becoming the UK’s SkillFRIDGE champion 2019. We wish you all success for your future career.”
With the current skills crisis occurring in the UK competitions and events like WorldSkills UK are more important than ever. Encouraging young people to pursue careers within engineering industries should be one of the top priorities for schools, as well as the government as the political environment changes.