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Ballymoney apprentice to compete at prestigious ‘Skills Olympics’

An apprentice plumber from Ballymoney will represent Northern Regional College at what has been dubbed the ‘Skills Olympics’: the WorldSkills UK LIVE Finals. 

Abigail Reilly, a Level 3 apprentice plumber at the College’s Ballymena campus, has fought off stiff competition in a series of inter-campus and regional qualifiers to secure her place at the prestigious national finals of WorldSkills UK.

Taking place 21-23 November at Birmingham’s NEC, Abigail will compete against others from all over the UK in front of over 70,000 visitors at the country’s largest interactive apprenticeships, skills and careers event.

The original entry of over 3,000 has been whittled down to just 500 for the finals. Finalists must compete in a series of tasks in their respective skills area within a limited amount of time.

Six of Abigail’s peers from the College will join her as they compete in their individual fields in their bid to be crowned UK Champion. Joining Abigail will be Jack Marshall (Web Design), Ashton Logan (Bricklaying), Patrick McCloskey (Carpentry), Tadas Dobrovlskis (Welding), Philip Park (Graphic Design) and Maciej Twardowski (IT Software Solutions for Business).

Having competed in various rounds to qualify for the finals, Abigail is delighted with the opportunity:

“I was thrilled to hear that I had qualified for the WorldSkills UK LIVE Finals this year. It’s a massive competition in the skills industry so it means a lot,” she said.

WorldSkills UK hosts events in 70 different skill areas across digital, technology engineering, construction and hospitality industries, giving the most talented apprentices and students the chance to be named as the UK’s best in their chosen skill.

The 22-year-old explained that she has been putting in the hours ahead of the competition to ensure she is fully prepared:

“Having worked really hard to get here, the chance to now represent the College at such a high level is so exciting.

“I have been doing a lot of preparation by coming into College and putting the hours in. My tutors have been really supportive and even set up a bay in the workshop for me to practise in. Their expertise has been so valuable to me.”

As part of her plumbing apprenticeship, Abigail is employed by Dowds Group and is currently working on site at the South Lakes Leisure Centre in Craigavon.

“Being on site has taught me a lot and has allowed me to develop my skills in a professional environment. It has been a great opportunity and this learning curve for me will definitely stand me in good stead for the competition,” she said.

Talking about her inspiration to develop a career within the sector, Abigail points to her father:

“I get to work alongside my dad on a daily basis. He is my number one fan and it will be really special having him there at the competition supporting me.”

Professor Terri Scott, Principal and Chief Executive of Northern Regional College, congratulated the students:

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

Professor Scott said the students and their lecturers all deserved great credit as qualifying for WorldSkills UK LIVE is a major 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 the highest level.

“Many students will identify that traditionally academic-based subjects aren’t for them, instead opting to pursue pathways in trade-based careers through apprenticeships and other opportunities 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.”

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 highflyers 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, a Foundation Degree student at the College, was crowned UK Champion in the in Computer Numerical Control (CNC) category.

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