TEAM UK retained its top-10 position at WorldSkills this year, after competitors won one gold, three silvers, three bronzes, and 13 medallions of excellence in Abu Dhabi.
And for the Welsh contingent, there was well-deserved success with chef-de-rang Elizabeth Forkuoh from Carmarthenshire representing Coleg Sir Gâr, who won a medal of excellence for her world-class skills in restaurant services at WorldSkills, Abu Dhabi.
Around 10,000 competitors, skills experts, officials and supporters from 60 countries and regions around the world looked on as the 44th WorldSkills competition – the first to take place in the Middle East – was opened.
UWTSD’s Gareth Evans, who is the centre co-ordinator at Construction Wales Innovation Centre, was the appointed WorldSkills UK expert for carpentry at the prestigious competition. This highly coveted role enabled Gareth join the WorldSkills UK training team for WorldSkills, the world’s largest international skills competition. Gareth undertook this appointment alongside his role at the Construction Wales Innovation Centre, which is funded by the CITB and is part of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.
Gareth had responsibility for training Cameron Nutt, an apprentice from Northern Ireland who represented the UK in carpentry at WorldSkills. During the event, Gareth was also an international judge for the carpentry competition, which saw over 20 apprentices compete from many countries including Australia, South Korea and Germany.
To qualify for this position, Gareth, who himself won many national and international accolades as a competitor, had to demonstrate his knowledge and experience of teaching standards in construction both in the UK and internationally.
Backing Team UK and the Welsh contingency was Coleg Sir Gâr and Coleg Ceredigion principal Barry Liles who in his role as Skills Champion for Wales and in partnership with the Welsh Government-funded Inspiring Skills Excellence project, ensured the Welsh contingency was supported throughout their competition journey.
Barry Liles said: “WorldSkills is an extravaganza of an event which replicates the Olympic Games, showcasing the very best of skills from young people around the world who have been through a rigorous competition journey.
“For me, being part of WorldSkills is crucial in not only raising aspirations of our young people but raising their skills levels, for Wales to take a competitive stand in a global economy.
“I was thrilled to see Elizabeth win a medal of excellence as she’s trained phenomenally hard, as have all our competitors.
“Witnessing Team UK, the Welsh squad and Coleg Sir Gâr competitors on the world stage will always be a very proud moment for me.”
Gareth Evans said: “Attending the WorldSkills competition in Abu Dhabi is an excellent experience for any individual. To watch over 1300 competitors from 59 member countries in action during the week was incredible. The commitment and dedication displayed by the competitors in all 51 Skills was amazing. WorldSkills Competitions allow these young people to showcase how skills initially honed through Further and Higher Education courses make such an impact to their lives. Two years ago, my competitor Cameron Nutt from North West Regional College in Northern Ireland completed his Level 3 Diploma in Site Carpentry. Who would have thought that sometime later he would be competing on the world stage, mixing it against 22 other competitors?”
Elizabeth Forkuoh, a hospitality, supervision and leadership student at Coleg Sir Gâr and former pupil of Coedcae Comprehensive School, represented the college within Team UK at the largest international skills Olympics.
The journey towards Team UK selection has been a life-changing experience for Elizabeth and also for Alfie Hopkin who represented the college competing in the web design competition.
Elizabeth steadily rose through the competition ranks whilst at college and made such significant headway in UKSkills competitions, she received employment offers from some of the top restaurants in the country. As a result, she now works for Gleneagles in Scotland, one of the best restaurants in the UK for customer care and food service. She also underwent professional training at The Ritz, completed a wine appreciation course in London and attended a training event in Taiwan. She also won a British Education award when she was at college and working part-time at the Stradey Park Hotel.
Elizabeth and Alfie were two out of four competitors representing Wales within Team UK.
Elizabeth said: “It’s been hard work over the last few years but with the support of my employer and trainer, I have given my best and I definitely know that fine dining is where I belong.”
Speaking about the UK team, Gareth added: “By competing at the event, the UK team showcased the great level of excellence and technical knowledge displayed by young people in the UK. Furthermore, it also showcases the excellent level of training provided by UK’s Education Establishments. We at the Construction Wales Innovation Centre and The University of Wales Trinity Saint David are proud to have played a part in the World-Class training required by Team UK competitors in the run-up to WorldSkills Abu Dhabi. We are also looking forward to support the Team further in the run up to WorldSkills Kazan 2019.”
He added: “Having been a competitor myself in Team UK, and winning Gold in Carpentry at two National Competitions. I know how the preparation and the experience of competing enables apprentices to gain the high level employability skills that will drive the construction industry forward. I’m so pleased to have supported these young people to achieve their goals and strive for excellence.”
Emphasising the importance of promoting skills excellence at all levels Gerald Naylor, the Director of the Construction Wales Innovation Centre said the Centre will continue to support Gareth in his competition work. Gerald is also keen to see the Coleg Sir Gar development of the new construction technical & professional skills competition supported by UWTSD, the Construction industry Training Board and the Chartered Institution of Building.