Bradley Ellison (L) and Kamil Zmich (R)

To be selected to represent the UK at EuroSkills, Europe’s largest skills competition, feels fantastic. To be the first apprentice, along with my teammate Kamil Zmich, to represent the UK in the Industry 4.0 Competition is a complete honour.

Participation in this new competition at EuroSkills Graz is part of WorldSkills UK’s commitment to adapt its skills portfolio to reflect the priorities of the UK Government’s industrial strategy and myself and Kamil are delighted to play our part.

When I left school, I knew I wanted to study for A Levels, but I was less sure about my options when I turned 18. One thing was certain, I wanted to carry on studying engineering and whilst University interested me, I have always been better at practical learning. I had great support from teachers at UTC Sheffield and once they discussed the benefits that a degree apprenticeship offered; my mind was made up.

I’m now an Apprentice Applications Engineer at SMS Machine Automation in Barnsley and am in my third year of my degree apprenticeship. As part of my training, I attend the University of Sheffield where I receive regular support from my tutor and I really enjoy the mix of learning and work. I will graduate with a degree in engineering and no student debt, whilst having developed valuable skills working for SMS Machine Automation, a business that’s well established in its industry. It really is a ‘win-win’ for me and my career.

One thing, I didn’t expect when I decided to compete my Degree Apprenticeship was that I would be representing my country on the international stage, I thought that was something that only happened in sport!

My journey with WorldSkills UK began over four years ago when I was studying at UTC Sheffield. Competition activity was used to help students further their knowledge and skills and my tutor encouraged me to get involved with WorldSkills UK Competitions. I first competed in the Automation Competition, when after getting through the qualifiers, I competed in the National Final. It was such a great experience, and you soon get used to blocking out the crowds and focussing on the task in hand. I had really caught the competition bug and as I progressed in my studies, I realised I could take part in the WorldSkills Competition in Mechatronics, where I reached the National Final at WorldSkills UK LIVE again. I made the decision to switch to the new Industry 4.0 Competition, because I have seen how training for competitions has really pushed me in my own career, enabling me to continue developing my knowledge. Industry 4.0 is transforming the way we work and being able to be at the forefront and learn new skills as part of my preparation for EuroSkills and possibly WorldSkills Shanghai, if I’m selected, is incredibly exciting.

As we got together as a Squad at the beginning of the year with our WorldSkills UK Training Manager Marcin Regulski, who works for Festo Didactic, and who is charge of devising our training for international competitions, none of us knew what was round the corner. While Covid has impacted on our preparations, we have been able to do some training virtually. However, I know that the next few months will be a lot of hard work, but Kamil and I are more than ready for the challenge. We just need to get our heads down and focus. Early on in the pandemic, WorldSkills UK moved its bootcamps online, which meant all Squad UK members are still able to participate in performance coaching and physiological wellbeing sessions to help us create a "medal-winning" mindset and manage the complexities of preparing for international competition.

My colleagues at SMS Machine Automation are watching my development with keen interest. When I first started at the company, they encouraged me to continue competing and everyone has been really supportive. They can see how training with WorldSkills UK has helped me further my skills and knowledge which I know is helping me in my apprenticeship. I am one of the first degree apprentices to represent the UK internationally and I hope I can use my experience to inspire more young people to consider taking this route of training and get involved with WorldSkills UK Competitions.

Bradley Ellison, Team UK, EuroSkills Graz and Degree Apprentice, SMS Machine Automation

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