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Hartlepool College
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North East
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Welding national finalist and Skills Champion Charley explains the skills he’s learnt from taking part in our competitions and why he’s passionate about supporting the next generation.

Charley’s education and early career journey hasn’t been all plain sailing. “I struggled with school and my school work; this was more due to low concentration during lessons. I seemed to lack a work ethic while at school. But then family seemed to move away, and it was just me, my mother and my brother. I believe this made me grow up faster and really changed my life around.”

He didn’t at first choose to do an apprenticeship, “It wasn’t until completing AS Levels that I decided to break the trend and do an apprenticeship. This was a large risk which didn’t pay off at first. I couldn’t get an apprenticeship and so I went to a training provider and studied for a year. After several failed attempts it was really my last chance to get one. Luckily I did and it was the best thing to ever happen to me.”

Charley’s dedication was picked up by his tutor at Hartlepool College of Further Education who told him about WorldSkills UK Competitions, “My tutor really pushed me and believed in my ability which led to me competing, I can’t thank him enough.” Through his tutor’s support and Charley’s own commitment he successfully qualified in the regional competitions and went on to the National Finals in 2019 at Birmingham NEC.

Charley Ma pic

Asked what he has gained from competing Charley says, “I learned many skills including technical tricks which are acquired through experience and networking which I may never have discovered. I have also learned how to manage my time well and stay calm under pressure, even to perform better under pressure.”

An example of this was when he was behind schedule and coming into the third and final day of the competition. “I believed, and I think the judges believed, I wouldn’t complete the product. However, I went back on the night and planned. The next morning, I came into the competition with a game plan and a grit attitude. I surprised everyone with not only completing the piece but doing so to a high standard.”

He has enjoyed taking part in WorldSkills UK Competitions and has seen benefits to many parts of his life. “First of all, I made myself and my family proud. This was a great achievement for me and down to my own hard work. I believe I was welcomed into a new family – WorldSkills UK. I have met peers I would now class as friends who all worked in similar roles. It was really exciting to meet more people like me which I would never have met on a day-to-day basis.”

The impact of taking part in competitions on his work has been very positive. “I now have case studies and examples of my ability in situations you will not find at work. Within my company (DARCHEM), I have been awarded which is mainly due to my achievements through the competition. This not only looks good but has helped my confidence and I know I can achieve whatever I put my mind to.”

To someone thinking about entering a WorldSkills UK Competition Charley has this to say: “Don’t think about it! Just do it. Taking part was by far one of the best experiences of my life which has opened so many new and exciting doors within my personal and working life.”

As a Skills Champion, Charley believes he can really help young people see their way through to planning their career journey. “My own school didn’t support us enough to select or at least gain an idea of the career we desired. The possibility to help young students gain knowledge of potential careers and even to let them know that it may not be smooth sailing, but hard work, will always get you through it.”

Challenging stereotypes is something he will do in his Skills Champions work but Charley also wants to see governments and educators open their eyes to the possibilities of technical careers, “University isn’t the only way! There is a stereotype that clever students go to university and apprenticeships are for the dull, this is completely wrong.

Apprenticeships are the perfect mix of knowledge and skills which can only be learned while working. They also work on the character of a person, they allow you to discover who you are and what you want out of life.

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