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Skills competition success for fashion student

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 12.19.37A 16-YEAR-OLD from Merlin’s Bridge has won gold in the Visual Merchandising Final of a national skills competition. 

Skills Competition Wales is a Welsh Government-backed series of events designed to celebrate vocational skills and create a highly-skilled Welsh workforce for the future.

With Olympic athletes training hard for the imminent games in Rio, Ellie Hanley is just one of 78 Welsh youngsters who have been perfecting their skills in a bid to win a medal.

Across a range of vocations from graphic design to patisserie, these budding skilled champions, like Olympians, may go on to challenge competitors from other nations.

Ellie, from Coleg Sir Gâr, competed against two other students from across Wales. Finalists completed a series of visual merchandising challenges within a four-and-a-half hour time period, creating an artistic window display themed around the concept of ‘recycle and reuse’.

Ellie, who had planned her mood board weeks in advance, created a display themed around water pollution, by using flowing scarves and painting the floor to represent a waterfall around her mannequin.

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Ellie, who is studying a Level One BTEC extended diploma in fashion and textiles, said she is thrilled to have won.

“I feel really proud of myself having won the competition, especially as I’ve only started learning about creating displays in the last year. I’ve always loved fashion and I feel like I’m following my dream career. Creating displays like this makes me realise how much I enjoy using clothes to demonstrate an artistic concept.

“I’m excited to go on to the next stage of the competition and learn more about creating more artistic displays. At the moment, I’m working at Debenhams while studying at college, but one day I could be designing their windows!”

Supported by the European Social Fund, Skills Competition Wales forms part of the Welsh Government’s Growth and Sustainable Jobs Programme, designed to promote the importance of vocational skills with the aim of boosting the overall skill capabilities and prosperity of Wales.

Ellie may go forward to represent Coleg Sir Gâr in the visual merchandising Worldskills UK heat, with the aim of potentially representing Team Wales at this year’s Skills Show in Birmingham in November. She may then be eligible to compete for a place in the squad which will represent the UK at WorldSkills in Kazan, Russia, in 2019.

Minister for Skills and Science, Julie James AM, said: “Year on year, the level of talent at Skills Competition Wales keeps on improving. These events encourage healthy competition and are a great way of recognising the fantastic talent that we have in our country.

“The colleges and work-based learning providers across Wales are already involved in the Skills Competition Wales initiative and have played a huge part in organising the heats and finals, but we’re keen to see more Welsh businesses support their talented young employees and encourage them to enter.”

The Minister added: “It takes a lot of hard work to get to the final round but to win gold is a fantastic achievement. It is clear that all the competitors are extremely passionate and determined to be named the best in Wales.

“We wish Ellie and all the other finalists and winners the very best of luck, not only in the next round of the competitions, but also in their future careers.”