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Apprentices sharpen up for World Skills

Nescot College gave the Southeast’s top apprentices the chance to perfect their skills in plumbing, electronics and computing on the 25th and 26th of February. The college ran expert classes, designed to show the difference between satisfactory and excellent skills in preparation for the 2011 World Skills Games, to be held in London.

David Mason, of Deloitte, who is running the scheme on behalf of the Learning and Skills Council, explained the reasons for holding these classes, which are taking place across the nation to help the most talented youngsters bring home Gold for Britain.

"The 2007 Games in Japan saw the British team ranked 11th in the world, we hope to do better this year in Canada but our target is to be in the top 5 when London hosts in 2011. We’ve chosen colleges with top facilities and expert tutors to host these classes so we can prepare our apprentices for the challenge and help them raise their skills to competition level. We are also looking to ensure we get the very best to represent Britain and provide them with the support they need to compete," he said.

Nescot tutors Steve Matthews, Terry Trust and Grant Yates, who hosted the precision measuring and marking class for plumbing and electronics apprentices, described the skills needed to take part in the workshop, "The classes are open to any apprentice who has been nominated by their tutor or employer as capable of excellence. We’re taking them back to a basic, underpinning skill and showing them how to do it to international competition level,"said Matthews.

Plumbing Apprentices Zoe Watson, 22, and Tim Smith, 19, who work for Smith and Byford, and Ross Ladbrook, 20, who works for PS Baker Ltd, were delighted to be invited to take part in the class, "It’s not every day you get put forward for something like this," said Ross.

Zoe agreed, "It’s a great thing to put on your CV and I’m definitely interested in doing more," she said.

All three agreed the workshop had given them much to think about and had enjoyed the chance to stretch their skills under expert tuition. Tim, the only one of the three who will be young enough to compete in London 2011, had known nothing about the Games before the classes but is now keen to prepare his skills for the regional and national selection process.

"The drawings we were given looked confusing at first as you don’t usually see them laid out like that on site, but once they were explained to us it was quite straightforward. You’re given the drawings the night before in the competitions though. It’s much more precise and exacting than at work. I’m definitely interested in going for the regional skills if I get put forward."

The following day saw the regions’ computing talent converge on the college for the only computing masterclass to be held in Surrey. Looking at configuration of Servers, this differed from the measuring workshop by taking students well above their normal skill level. The event concentrated on tasks of a commercial industrial standard including creating an ISP and web servers to host both a public access website and a secure website with remote access. Just 6 students were able to take part in a task of such intensity and tutors were delighted by their willingness to rise to the challenge.

Nescot Computing Tutor Kamadchisundaram Sureshkumar, who was chosen by the FETC as having the necessary expertise to host the classes, said, "They were so keen, they all completed well within the time scale and went on to do more than was required."

Head of Computing Sage Lal also found the process rewarding, "The whole team pulled together so we could run this and the students did not let us down. We even had to ask one of our ex technicians, Brian Burke, to come out of retirement and configure the rooms for us as the tasks were not something we could usually teach at this level. There was such collaboration and cooperation across the whole department. I’m very proud."

All the students who took part have been judged fit to progress to the next level, where they will look at high end networking and web design. The whole department is thrilled by the students’ success and, as all are young enough to be eligible for 2011, have high hopes for their futures.

"I did wonder if I was doing the right thing, it took a lot of the department’s time to set up and put such high demands on the students," said Sureshkumar.

"It’s been time so well spent though, I cannot describe the sheer energy and buzz in that room. The students amazed me with their enthusiasm for learning, their troubleshooting and technical ability and their willingness to face the challenge."


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