Lockdown has not stopped students from North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College (NWSLC) from keeping up with their training as part of Squad UK, as Marion Plant, OBE FCGI, Principal and Chief Executive of NWSLC explains in our latest guest blog.

I was really pleased to see that our students kept up a rigorous routine of training as members of Squad UK despite the coronavirus lockdown. Former catering student and Nuneaton chef Chloe Lloyd-Hughes, 20, is due to compete in the culinary arts category while graphic design student Ellie Ruff, 18, will take on challenges in visual merchandising. Both became part of the prestigious WorldSkills UK Talent Development Programme after excelling in its national WorldSkills UK LIVE skills competitions. The pandemic called a halt to planned training bootcamps, but this talented pair have spent time on Zoom and Skype and completed challenges in their specialist disciplines at home.

It was really encouraging to hear from Chloe, who works at the Sunnyside Inn in Nuneaton, about the training she has been doing despite the lockdown. Chloe told us that she has been spending about four hours every Wednesday on a Zoom session with WorldSkills and getting through a lot of theory. She has been enjoying interesting presentations and Q&A sessions and has been given top secret cookery challenges to try at home.

Ellie, who completed her college coursework at home, was enthusiastic about the amount of support provided by the WorldSkills UK training team. Ellie told us that WorldSkills UK really looked after her during lockdown and sent her loads of materials that she has been using to practice visual merchandising. Ellie received consignments of crockery, vinyl, wood, and tools so that she had everything she needed at her fingertips. She set up a makeshift studio in her garage at home where her work has taken over and is enjoying keeping her skills sharp. Ellie has also been carrying out market research online so she can work out what appeals to the different retail audiences.

Chloe and Ellie have done really well to keep up their training during this difficult time. The coronavirus lockdown has required all of us to learn new skills in a different way over the last few months and it is great that they have been able to keep on track with their preparations using technology.

I am sure that competing as part of Squad UK will provide them both with an unforgettable experience, despite the current constraints, that will help them to grow and develop both personally and professionally.

At NWSLC we encourage as many of our students as possible to engage with skills competitions and they benefit from some fantastic support from their tutors who consistently go the extra mile to help them practice and prepare themselves as well as they can.

Competitions are an excellent way of enabling students to practice real-world employability skills including performing under pressure, delivering to tight deadlines, and being judged by employers against industry standards. Taking part in live activities inspires young people to get enthusiastic about their future career options.

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