Apprentices prepare for skills competition

Four apprentices from BAE Systems’ Military Air and Information (MAI) business will compete in the national finals of the WorldSkills UK competition which takes place at the UK Skills Show at the NEC in Birmingham on Thursday, November 13.

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They will compete against the best in Britain at computer aided design (CAD) and CNC milling where they will be expected to show how quickly and accurately they can complete a complex piece of work against a tight deadline.

In a bid to best prepare the youngsters for the heat of competition, a number of ex-apprentices who have competed at previous World Skills competitions have been mentoring this year’s hopefuls.

Callum James, 19, of Longridge, who is a support engineer on the F-35 Lightning II programme at its Samlesbury site, said the support of the tutors had been “a massive help” to his preparation.

He said: “These guys have first-hand experience, they have been there and done it.

“It is not just what they can tell you about the skills of tackling the task to get the maximum marks, they can teach you how you handle the pressure of competition and manage your time better.”

Pav Bhogal, who competed in the CAD competition in 2012 and made it through to squad selection for the UK team, has been working with Callum and fellow competitor Adam Websdell as they prepare for the NEC.

He started working with the competitors in the summer along with fellow CAD former competitors David Liptrot and Joe Higginson with James Taylor supporting the CNC milling competitors.

Pav said: “When you only have six hours to complete a piece of work which would normally take you much longer to do, if something goes wrong you can find yourself with zero time to put it right.

“Handling that pressure is something that only comes with experience, so if myself and the others who have been in the competition before can help our guys get an idea of what that is all about, it will only help them.”

To prepare the competitors further, a mock competition was held at MAI’s training centre in Preston, Lancashire.

It saw them set tasks including machining a piece of metal and designing a robot in just three hours, half the time they will get in competition.

MAI’s Manufacturing Functional Director, Dave Holmes, said the competition gave the company’s top performers the opportunity to pit their wits against the best of other companies across the country.

He said: “We take our responsibility for developing our young people very seriously and recognise the benefits competing in these events can bring to their personal development.

“If our people can get the experience of working in competition conditions, it can only benefit them in the workplace.

“They are not just great ambassadors for our business but also for what British manufacturing can do.”

Apprentices Callum Goulder and Sam Pugh, who are from BAE Systems’ submarines business in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, have also been practising at the Preston Training Centre under the watchful eye of the tutors.

They will be competing in the CAD and construction metalwork competitions respectively. If they are successful, the apprentices will progress in to the Team UK squad with a view to making the team which heads to the World Skills finals, a bi-annual competition held at locations across the world.