A team of 16 young people did the UK proud by bringing home eight gold medals at the first ever EuroSkills event last week. Around 40,000 spectators turned out to watch the pan-European competition, which involved skills ranging from farriery to fashion.

A total of 400 competitors, from 29 countries, took part in the games, which consisted of 25 different competitions and covered 49 different vocational skills.

David Lammy, Skills Minister, said: "Each of the young people in the team have worked hard to earn the right to represent their country - and it was inspiring to see them competing against the brightest and best from countries all across Europe.

"The results reflect the unprecedented investment we have made in skills training in the UK, and I hope the success of Team UK will inspire others to pursue excellence in their vocational skill."

FE News caught up with Hilary Wells, 20, who has just returned to Somerset College after winning a gold medal in fashion.

What made you get into the EuroSkills competition?

My tutor at university told me and my team mate about the competition and we thought we would go for it. It was an opportunity I couldn't miss. I never believed we would get this far!

What made you choose the skill you entered?

Since I was 14 I have been interested in fashion. At 16 I did a BTEC National Diploma and really enjoyed it, which led me to do my degree at Somerset College. Fashion is so fast moving and exciting, which is why I have a real passion for what I do.

What was your greatest challenge?

The whole experience of competing was completely new to me. Me and my team mate had only worked together in the national heat and were still new to it all. Working to a strict time scale (18 hours) was a challenge and not knowing what the level of work the European teams would produce.

Did you have any tactics, or skills that proved vital to your success?

We were training and preparing for the final competition for nine months, this meant we went into the competition fully prepared. Our training manager Victoria was a great help, guiding us with our work and how best to answer the brief. We attended a pattern cutting workshop and trend seminar prior to the competition to build on our skills and knowledge.

Did you learn anything you didn't expect from the experience?

I didn't expect it to be such hard work and stressful at times, but it was definitely worth it. I think it has really prepared me for my future career and I have learnt skills that we don't cover at university, such as time management, team work and working to a industry set brief.

What are your future plans for education, and beyond?

I have my 3rd year of my degree to finish, which will keep me very busy. I then hope to get a job as a designer for a high-street brand or go into styling.

The UK EuroSkills team is managed by UK Skills, which champions skills and learning for work through competitions and awards. The organisation is currently on the look out for candidates to compete in WorldSkills London 2011, which will see the capital host the vocational competition on a global scale.

The UK reached joint second place with Australia overall, out of 29 countries based on average team score. Germany was declared the ultimate winner at just one point ahead.

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