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SERC students set to secure place with @WorldSkillsUK For Kazan

Curtis Johnston and Luke Courtney, Apprentices with South Eastern regional College (SERC) will be showing their skills at a Team UK Selection Competition which will see WorldSkills UK select the most talented apprentices and students to compete at the ‘Skills Olympics’ taking place in Kazan, Russia this August. 

SERC’s Lisburn Campus, selected by WorldSkills UK to host a prestigious selection competition in Northern Ireland, will be hosting apprentices from Scotland competing in painting and decorating and wall and floor tiling during National Apprenticeship Week, 4 – 7 March.

Curtis, 21, a Level 3 Plastering Apprentice from Hillsborough, heads to Nottingham College to compete against a student from Wales in the plastering skills section. He said, “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to compete at this level.   Having competed at college, regional and national levels to reach this stage, I am all set to give my very best to secure a place in Team UK heading to Russia this summer.   I will have a set number of hours to complete tasks which will put all my skills and learning to the test, but I am up for the challenge.   As a competitor, I have been following a rigorous training programme and have received world-class technical training and mindset and performance coaching organised by WorldSkills in Nottingham, Newry and Wales.  

He added, “Following the apprenticeship route has been very rewarding for me.   I attend SERC one day a week but the other four days I am out working, putting all the theory into practise, learning on the job and earning money.  In a few months I will complete my Level 3 Apprenticeship in Plastering which is equivalent to 2 ‘A’ Levels.   The programme has also given me the chance to take part in WorldSkills, improving my skills and giving me the chance to meet people from all over the world.   I would recommend to any young person to get themselves a trade backed up with the Apprenticeship qualification.” 

Luke Courtney, 21, from Dungannon, who has recently completed his Level 3 Apprenticeship in Refrigeration and Air Conditioning and is employed by Cross Refrigeration, in the town, is also heading to Nottingham College to compete in his skill area.   He said, “I am very excited to have the chance to compete to be part of the TeamUK heading to Kazan.   The training has been very intensive, and I have been over to England about six times this past year to attend boot camps and specialist training sessions at Toshiba in Stockport and at the Practical Refrigeration Centre in Burnley.  The training alone through WorldSkills has certainly increased my skill level and confidence, helping me to focus and deal with the pressure of the competition.

He added, “I am geared up for the competition, so my plan is to go and show all that I can do to secure a place.   I won Gold at national level in Birmingham a few years ago so it would be brilliant to go to the next level.”

Known as the ‘Skills Olympics’, the WorldSkills Competition will see the world’s best apprentices and students battle it out to win Gold, Silver and Bronze in their chosen skill. The UK is currently tenth in the WorldSkills rankings following its medal success at the last WorldSkills Competition in Abu Dhabi in 2017.

To help celebrate the week, SERC will also be hosting ‘Have a Go’ sessions at their Lisburn Campus, from 2pm – 8pm on Wednesday 6 March during their Full-Time Open Day where young people will be able to try out welding, carpentry and joinery, plumbing and motor vehicle skills. On Thursday 7 March local employers are also invited to visit the College to find out about the range Higher Level Apprenticeship programmes on offer from 2 – 4pm.

Ken Webb, Principal and Chief Executive at SERC said, “We are very proud of Curtis and Luke and wish them every success in Nottingham.  It will be a tough competition, but they have worked very hard, honing their skills, so we are confident that they both have the talent and mindset necessary to be part of Team UK. 

“We are also delighted to be one of the host colleges for WorldSkills UK and look forward to welcoming competitors from around the world to Northern Ireland. The event will give us the opportunity to showcase how we nurture and train our young people to be the best they can be and perform on the world stage.

“SERC has witnessed many apprentices take their first steps on a journey that has led to success at UK National, International and WorldSkills competitions.  WorldSkills not only encourages competitors to improve their own skills but provides an example of the high-quality work being produced in training organisations and colleges across the UK.”

Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE, Chief Executive, WorldSkills UK, which manages the UK’s entry into the WorldSkills Competition said: “SERC offers state of the art facilities for us to use to select the UK’s top apprentices and students to compete on the world stage.

“Working with training providers like SERC and businesses throughout the UK, we can transfer the insights gained from competing against other countries into the wider economy, driving up training standards in the UK to world-class levels, boosting productivity.”

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