A Northern Regional College welding student will represent Northern Ireland at the WorldSkills UK LIVE finals in Birmingham next week – the first ever welder to represent Northern Ireland at the prestigious national finals considered as ‘Olympics of vocational skills’.

Tadas Dobrovlskis (24), who is studying Advanced Welding at the College’s Newtownabbey campus, moved to Northern Ireland from Lithuania after graduating with a Social Science degree in Logistics and Transport.

Despite not having a trade background, Tadas got interested in welding while working with a plumber. He decided to undertake a part-time evening course at the College so he would have the necessary skills to support himself as a self-employed plumber.

The finals are at the heart of WorldSkills UK LIVE, the UK’s largest skills, apprenticeship and careers event which takes place from 21 – 23 November at the NEC, Birmingham. Over the three days, there will be competitions in 70 different skills across the Digital, Technology, Engineering, Construction and Hospitality industries with finalists having to complete a set task or series of tasks in their respective skill area within a limited time and in front of the 70,000 plus visitors attending the event.

The original entry of over 3,000 has been whittled down to just 500 for the national finals and Tadas is one of the Northern Regional College competitors to make the cut. 

The other finalists accompanying him from across the College’s six campuses, are: Abigail Reilly, Ballymena (Plumbing); Ashton Logan, Ballymena (Bricklaying); Patrick McCloskey, Coleraine (Carpentry); Maciej Twardowski, Magherafelt (IT Software Solutions); Philip Park, Ballymoney (Graphic Design); and Jack Marshall, Newtownabbey (Interactive Design). 

Commenting on his unconventional route to WorldSkills UK LIVE finals, Tadas said: “I love having a trade and couldn’t imagine doing anything else now. It is a real honour to qualify for the WorldSkills UK LIVE finals. I would never have had the opportunity to compete at such a high level had I not joined the College.”

Despite being the first competitor from Northern Ireland to qualify in the welding category at WorldSkills UK, Tadas is optimistic about the opportunity:

“I have learned a lot from competing so far and it has been a great learning curve. It has allowed me to improve and progress my skills, and I am looking forward to demonstrating everything I have learned at the WorldSkills UK LIVE finals this year.

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“My tutor has been helping me to prepare which has been really valuable. As an industry professional, he is able to provide a specialist insight into what the judges may be looking for.”

Congratulating Tadas on reaching the national finals, Professor Terri Scott, Principal and Chief Executive of Northern Regional College said:

“These students are shining examples of the skills and talent inherent to our young people at the College. What they have achieved so far is a reflection of their hard work, commitment and dedication and I wish them every success in the national finals.”

She said the students and their lecturers all deserved great credit as qualifying for WorldSkills UK LIVE was a significant achievement.

“I can’t impress the scale and scope of the finals enough – they really are the equivalent of the Olympics for experiential learning and apprenticeships. It is a true delight to see so many from the College compete at such a high level.

“Many students recognise that the traditional academic pathway is not for them, so they choose an alternative route to success and pursue a pathway in a trade-based career through an apprenticeship, Higher Level Apprenticeship or one of the other training opportunities available at the College. These students are testament to the high level of success that can be achieved in any subject when their hard work is fostered in a caring, encouraging and supportive environment,” Professor Scott said.

Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE, Chief Executive, WorldSkills UK said: “I wish all Northern Regional College students the best of luck as they compete at WorldSkills UK LIVE.

“At WorldSkills UK we work to accelerate the development of young people’s skills from national to world-class standards. We’re creating a new generation of high flyers that give UK employers a competitive edge.”

Northern Regional College students have a proven track record at WorldSkills UK LIVE. At last year’s competition, Aghadowey student Samuel Gilmore was named UK Champion for Carpentry. He has since gone on to be crowned Europe’s Best Apprentice at the European Alliance for Apprenticeship Awards, held in Helsinki in October. In 2017, Rory McCloskey from Antrim was crowned UK Champion in the Computer Numerical Control (CNC) category when he was a Foundation Degree student.

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