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High-scoring students at Bath College through to national SkillBuild finals

Students from Bath College will compete against the best in the country after being picked for The SkillBuild 2017 UK National Final.

Oliver Takhar and Joshua Underwood were among the highest scoring competitors in this year’s SkillBuild regional qualifiers.

They are busy preparing for the demanding three-day final, which takes place at the NEC in Birmingham in November.

Painting and decorating student Oliver will compete against seven others to win The Crown Trade Apprentice Decorator of the Year Competition.

He scored 79.5 out of 100 in the regional qualifiers, using paint, wallpaper and stencils to accurately follow a detailed plan drawing.

Oliver, 19, from Frome, said: “When I found out I was through to the finals it felt really good, because I wasn’t expecting it. I’m just excited about competing and this competition will be over a couple of days, so it’s much bigger than the regional qualifiers.

“I’m pleased I entered, I wouldn’t have done it without encouragement from the college. I’m going to practice everything that could come up.

“When I left school, I spent two years training to become a mechanic, and then I changed track completely. Now I’ve found something that I can do and I’m enjoying.”

Stonemasonry student Joshua Underwood is competing at the SkillBuild 2017 UK National Final after coming second in the final of the UK Masonry Skills Challenge, run by The Stone Federation.

He took part in the challenge alongside Bath College students Shaun Forbes and Daniel Owen, with the team winning first prize for the best college when their scores were added together.

Joshua, an apprentice with Architectural Stone in Cardiff, said: “When I first started competing I was nervous, but now I know how the competitions work and what the judging is like.

“The competition environment can be quite distracting. They encourage you to work so that the spectators can see what you’re doing, but I make sure I’m concentrating on the work in front of me.

“It’s good to have this experience on your CV. I enjoy speaking to the competition qualifiers and getting an insight into the industry nationally.”

If Oliver and Joshua are successful in the finals, they could have the chance to represent the UK abroad as part of the WorkSkills UK squad.

Last December, former Bath College student and stonemason Toby Brook was part of a the UK team at EuroSkills 2016 – the largest skills competition in Europe.

Painting and decorating lecturer Graham Walmsley said: “I think it’s important that students are challenged at every opportunity to produce the highest possible work they can.

“The judges assessed each entrants’ work to a strict marking criteria which would have doubtless included how neatly they approached the tasks over the five-hour time limit.

“It’s going to be a tough three-day final against students who have been studying for longer than Ollie, but I have put together additional training sessions to help him develop.

“He has a very calm disposition and rarely gets flustered when working. Good results are seldom achieved when decorating is carried out in haste, something which he’s fully aware of.”

Stonemasonry lecturer Ray Sumner said: “Joshua’s dedication has led to him being recognised as one of the best apprentice stonemasons in the country.

“Joshua achieved one of the highest marks in the country when he competed in the regional qualifiers. The judges recognised his ability to interpret drawings, to execute the task in time and complete the job to a very high standard.

“He has the motivation to achieve the best possible standards and is improving all the time. He’s a testament to teaching and learning at Bath College, and he joins a long list of accomplished stonemasons who have trained here. We wish him all the best for the finals.”

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