WorldSkills UK: What it Takes to Go for Gold

WorldSkills UK: What it Takes to Go for Gold

David Kehoe, National Training and Technical Representative at British Gypsum and WorldSkills UK Expert shares his trade secrets as the UK prepares to take part in EuroSkills Gothenburg 2016.

Team GB certainly did us proud this summer. After watching our athletes in action at the Olympics, we now know what a medal winning performance in diving, cycling and even canoe slalom looks like. But what does it take to get a Gold Medal in plastering?

What’s more, how does an apprentice prepare to compete against the best young plasterers from all over Europe?

wsuk_logo_high1The truth is there are many similarities between the preparation that Team UK for EuroSkills Gothenburg 2016 undertake and that of an elite athlete in training for the Olympics.

As you would expect skills development forms a large part of the training programme that I have devised for Harrison Moy who will represent the UK in the Plastering and Dry Wall Systems Competition at EuroSkills.

Harrison, 20, who trains with British Gypsum and is an apprentice with H&R Property Development in Lewes, was selected for Team UK after excelling in the WorldSkills UK Competitions, the finals of which are held at The Skills Show.

The EuroSkills Competition runs over three days and competitors are expected to compete from 9:00am in the morning until 5:30pm in the evening, with only 45 minutes for lunch. So you could argue they work harder than an Olympic athlete.

During the Competition, Harrison will compete in front of an audience of over 100,000 European visitors. He will work on a project that will test his plaster boarding, metal framing, finishing, decorative and freestyle skills at Level 6 and above.

Harrison won’t know the exact details of the project until he arrives in Gothenburg and while he has a sound understanding of all of these technical areas through his apprenticeship, the difficulty will be completing the project to the exact requirements under strict timed conditions.

There is no room for a mistake. Being just one millimetre out on a measurement can result in points being dropped and a medal being lost.

robert-johnsonDuring his preparation training, Harrison will train at British Gypsum’s network of purpose built Technical Academies around the UK.

I have asked Robert Johnson, who competed at WorldSkils São Paulo 2015, to join my training team. There is no one better placed to share with Harrison the realities of what it is truly like to travel to another country and compete against the very best young international apprentices.

However, the technical skill of an individual is only half the story when it comes to taking part in international competitions. Our apprentices are no different. They need the mind-set of medal-winning champions if they are to succeed.

Positive attitudes and high levels of motivation and concentration can be hard to maintain when the competition is tough.

To help our competitors prepare themselves, we work with a team of coaches to deliver a programme that takes the key learnings of sports psychology which have been shared by Loughborough University and is based on their support of elite athletes.

Throughout their 18 month development programme the members of Team UK cover key areas with the coaches including: nutrition, health and well-being, performing under pressure as an individual and as part of a team, effective communication skills and maintaining a positive mental attitude.

The immediate focus is on the EuroSkills Competition, but Harrison could also be selected to represent the UK at WorldSkills Abu Dhabi next year.

Of course, we hope to replicate the medal winning success that our athletes enjoyed at this year’s Olympics, but whatever the result we know that the apprentices from Team UK will take back with them invaluable skills which will accelerate their apprenticeship training and career progression.

For me, this shows the UK’s involvement in international skills competitions is just as important as our participation in Olympics and should be celebrated as such.

For more information on WorldSills UK visit

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