Several past WorldSkills UK competitors were among the gold medal winners at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, writes Joseph Massie.

The Chelsea Flower Show celebrated its centenary this year, but 2013 should also be remembered for the high numbers of WorldSkills UK alumni taking part in the annual event.

I was competing for RHS Young Florist of the Year but there were five alumni competing in the florist categories alone — and three of us took home a gold medal.

Keith Chapman MBE (Team UK, 2007) kept up the representation in garden design, working with landscape architect Chris Beardshaw to create the gold medal winner, The Arthritis Research UK Garden. Finally, Natalie Stanyer (Team UK, 2007) worked on Interflora’s exhibit that commemorated its 90th anniversary.

While the representation is impressive, you simply can’t ignore the number of gold medals won by the alumni. Having competed at RHS Chelsea for the past five years, I know that winning a medal of any kind at an RHS Show is no easy feat. It takes dedication, hard work and determination, traits that are typical of a WorldSkills finalist and embedded in us as we started on our competition journey.

It is a huge honour to secure a place in the team that represents the UK at WorldSkills. We all drove ourselves to the limits of perfection in our individual skills.

A training programme for a Team UK member, who will compete internationally, typically lasts two years, focusing on taking the young person beyond what they think they are capable of. I was coached by the top vocational teachers and trained alongside the most gifted individuals in the industry from all over the world. I know just how hard it is and that it impacts on every aspect of your life, but competing has fast-forwarded our careers and put us years ahead of our peers.

At the end of last year, I met First Lady Michelle Obama when I was invited to dress the White House for the holiday season — something that would never have happened if I hadn’t taken part in WorldSkills. Competing raised my profile in the sector and gave me the confidence to launch my own business.

Adam Smith, a team mate at WorldSkills Calgary 2009, who represented the UK in cooking and who was until recently premier sous chef at The Ritz, has said that his competition training put him five years ahead of his work peers.

The training that I got before Calgary has made me determined to stay involved with the programme. I am now responsible for helping to train future Team UK members in floristry.

I’m always impressed that whatever stage the competitor is at, he or she always has the same determination and dedication that I had and still have as I continue to compete in competitions all over the world. Working with Chloe Woolf, who will represent the UK in floristry at WorldSkills Leipzig in July, has reconfirmed how hungry the young team is for success.

The WorldSkills programme deserves much wider understanding and appreciation. Members of this year’s and future squad and teams will continue to grow and mature through the experience. You only have to look at the results table at this year’s Chelsea Show for proof.

Joseph Massie, director and proprietor, Joseph Massie Creative, squad and Team UK training team (floristry), and gold medallist, RHS Chelsea Young Florist of the Year, 2013

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