Olympic team misses medals

The UK team managed only 11th place out of 34 countries in this year’s World
Skills Competition in Seoul, South Korea.

The biennial contest is open to young people aged up to 22 who pit their
vocational skills from autobody repair to welding against the cream of
international competitors in an Olympic-style bid for medals.

The UK’s ranking was down one place from the previous WSC. Although there
were no medals for the UK, team members gained a record number of diplomas of
excellence, awarded to those deemed to have reached world-class standard. Korea
swept the board with 35 medals.

Linda Ammon, chief executive of UK Skills, the body responsible for the UK’s
entry, said, "It’s disappointing not to win medals, but we had quite a few
fourth and fifth places and we’re pleased with all our team members.

"Our competitors had been training hard for six months, but they all
have jobs, while competitors from countries like Korea train for the
competition full time for two years. It’s not a level playing field."

BAE Systems is a regular supporter of skills competitions. Gareth Willis, an
apprentice in its Avionics Division, represented the UK in industrial
electronics, coming just four points short of a diploma.

HR manager Keith Knight said, "We will use the fact that we’ve trained
somebody to this high standard in our recruitment," he said.

"Gareth put a lot of work into his programme. Representing the UK is
his reward and an incentive to apprentices who follow.

"The World Skills Competition is a by-product which drives up
standards."

Knight believes the UK approach strikes the right balance. "Perhaps we
would do better if it were a level playing field, but I think what we’re doing
is adding value to the business," he said.

"Our young people are probably contributing to the business earlier
than other competitors who don’t have much experience of a real work
environment."

Ammon said she learnt many lessons from the Seoul competition and will be
considering whether UK contestants are given enough time between selection and
competing.

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