Team UK jet off for special WorldSkills competition

61 finals take place in 15 countries with more than 1,000 competitors over the next two months

61 finals take place in 15 countries with more than 1,000 competitors over the next two months

Teams of the UK’s most talented young trades people are being dispatched all over the world from this week to compete in a highly anticipated special version of Worldskills

The competition will see 61 finals take place in 15 countries such as the USA, Japan and Germany with more than 1,000 competitors over the next two months.

The UK is fielding 35 team members who will vie for gold, silver and bronze medals in 29 different skills including cyber security, mechatronics, cooking and jewellery.

This year’s multi-country international skills event, being referred to as the “WorldSkills Competition 2022 Special Edition”, replaces the traditional biennial event usually held in one city, known as the “Skills Olympics”. WorldSkills was originally planned for October in Shanghai, China but was called off due to the pandemic. 

The competition will now take place in smaller events across the world, which kicked off in Stuttgart, Germany on October 4 and ends on November 26 in Salzburg, Austria.

The UK will be looking to improve on a 12th place finish at the 2019 international event in Kazan, Russia and climb back in to the top 10 medal table.

FE Week takes a look at some of the competitors representing the UK…

Kamil Zmich and Liam Whitby, both aged 24, will take on seven other countries this week in a bid to take home the top prize in the new Industry 4.0 category.  

Industry 4.0 is making its WorldSkills competition debut this year as a relatively new discipline. Described by Whitby as “digitising the modern world”, the category takes its name from “the fourth industrial revolution” and covers the rapid changes happening to technology.

As well as showing the judges how they can design and implement systems which look at huge organisational risks such as cyber security, they are also the people who can programme your smart kettle. 

Whitby said: “I am so ecstatic to have made it to Team UK and that all the hard work has paid off. I always want to be the best I can and to push myself and compete internationally is another opportunity for me to do just that.”

‘I enjoy the thrill and pressure of competing’

Zmich’s talent is evidenced by his medals, being one of the UK team’s most decorated members. He has won gold, silver and bronze in mechatronics in the UK’s national finals, enjoying the “thrill and pressure” of competing and performing against others. 

Abi Stansfield, 22, will travel from her home in the Ribble Valley, Lancashire to Leonberg, Germany to compete for gold to become the world’s best at CNC Milling on October 10 to 15.

Stansfield will be competing against 25 other countries, including Indonesia, South Korea, Sweden and Mexico. 

After undertaking an apprenticeship with BAE Systems, she settled on tool making as her speciality. She has always been interested in how things work and she knew she wanted to be an engineer. Since the age of 12 she has been a keen stock car racer and used to work on her own cars. 

In 2017 Stansfield was helping out at the BAE stand during the WorldSkills competition when she became inspired by what she saw. She came back the year after to compete herself, winning a bronze medal in 2019.

Portsmouth’s Lewis Newton, 22, will represent the UK against rivals from 24 countries in the web developer competitions in Goyang, South Korea from October 13 to 16. 

He said: I can’t really put into words just how happy I am or what this means to me. All that hard work and putting everything I have learnt into practice has really paid off.

While studying at Highbury College, Newton became inspired by his peer Dan Levings who took the same course as him and represented the UK internationally in Brazil in 2015.

Newton said that due to low self-esteem he didn’t think he would come close to qualifying for the national finals, but won the gold medal in 2017. Since this win he believes in himself more and says he is not as afraid to try new things even when they’re outside his comfort zone. 

Week two of the competition will also see Ross Fiori, 22 from Langley-on-Tyne in Northumberland, go for gold in joinery. 

The joinery competitions will go ahead in Basel, Switzerland from October 11-14. Fiori chose to defy career advisors at school as he didn’t fancy university and wanted to do something practical, working with his hands. 

He said he wants to do his best and hopefully make his mum proud who inspired his drive after his father passed away when he was 13.

Other UK entrants include Sai Putravu, agreed 19, a cyber security ace from Bristol who wants to get gold in the cyber security championships in Korea, between October 13 to 16, alongside 20-year-old Luke Jowett from Walsall College.

“I am so excited to have made it to Team UK and to be going out to Korea. I am nervous about the next steps, but I can’t wait to take this to the next level and go up against the best of the best from around the world.”

Elsewhere, Lavanya Hemanth, a young lab technician from London, is hoping to be crowned the world’s best young laboratory technician in Austria in November. 

Hemanth, aged 22, from Queen’s Park, West London, came to this country from Bangalore, South India, five years ago to get a “better education” and improve herself.

After studying at Middlesex University, she began work at Diagnostics 360, in Chiswick, and found herself coping in the biggest health crisis of a generation. She was on the frontline during the Covid-19 pandemic working night and day to ensure test results were processed accurately and swiftly.

“It was hard work, and it was a continual learning curve to ensure that we kept ourselves up to date with the very latest research and understanding about the virus,” Hemanth said.

She added. “When I first came to this country, I felt that maybe I had made the mistake of not thinking it through properly and missed my friends and family. Now that so much has happened and I have found my feet, and success at WorldSkills UK, I know that it has all been worthwhile.”

Having triumphed in regional and national finals, most Team UK members have been training for a shot at being crowned world’s best in their field since January 2020.

The competition will include knowledge on the vulnerability of computer programs and ICT systems and how to keep hackers at bay.

Winners for each category will be announced during closing ceremonies at the end of each competition, announcing winners for gold, silver and bronze medals. Competitors will be awarded a medallion of excellence if they are judged to have reached world-class standard in their skill.

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