Clara from the College of Agriculture Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) and Armagh Blooms explains how being part of the Squad UK Floristry team is helping to prepare her for her dream career.
Clara overcame personal difficulties to follow her dream career. “I grew up coping with my anxiety and panic attacks. From about the age of twelve I knew I wanted to be a florist but a lot of people had put me down saying I wasn’t good enough. This weighed heavily on me causing anxiety. I was always wondering if I was doing the right thing by choosing to do a course in it.”
Overcoming her anxiety Clara enrolled at the College of Agriculture Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) and puts this decision down in part to the fond memories she has of gardening with her beloved grandad. “He passed away when I was ten, I started making arrangements for his grave and loved doing it. So, from a young age I knew I wanted to go to CAFRE to study floristry. I suppose in a way I didn’t want to stop doing it because it was that connection between my grandad and me.
I heard about WorldSkills UK Competitions through CAFRE. In my first Year there, my tutors selected me to go with them to WorldSkills UK LIVE to demonstrate and I just loved it! Although at that stage I never thought in a million years that I would get to the National Finals in 2019 when I was just eighteen, never mind Squad UK.
Asked what her favourite part of competing was Clara says, “I have a few favourites like meeting new friends, but I think overall it has opened my eyes to a different type of floristry!”
The benefits have not been limited to technical skills development. “My biggest challenge would definitely be my confidence and anxiety! I wouldn’t say I have overcome it, but the WorldSkills UK National Final really showed me that I am able and capable of competing. I just have to not worry about the set-backs but keep my mind on the task at hand.” It is employability skills like time management, communications and resilience aside from technical skills, that employers value so highly.
Competing has helped build her and her employer Armagh Blooms profile. “A lot of the local newspapers picked up on my competing and it’s really helped get my name out there. I think it will have helped a lot for my future as I would love to have my own business!
“For young people who are thinking about taking part in WorldSkills UK Competitions I would tell them to do it. So much opportunity has come from it for me. Even if you make it through to the qualifiers and not the National Finals at least you are practising skills by competing!”
Clara’s competition experience so far puts her in good stead as she undergoes the skill set and mindset training which WorldSkills is renowned for and is at the heart of the Squad UK training. The day she got selected to be part of Squad UK was a memorable one. “It was very emotional to be honest, a lot of tears! When I tried out for the qualifiers I didn’t think I had any chance of getting to the National Final. So, to go from that to finding out I got into Squad UK was such a shock! Clara says her favourite part of Squad UK training so far would be, “the amazing flower material I get to train with, it really is such a blessing to have the opportunity.”
If she is selected for Team UK Clara could be heading for either EuroSkills or WorldSkills, also known as the ‘Skills olympics’ and she’s very excited at the prospect. “I always hoped I was doing my grandad proud but I just think this would be the icing on the cake, to compete in something I am so passionate about, for my grandad, would be a lifetime achievement for me.”
With continued work on developing her skills and building up her experience Clara has the potential for continuing success in a career she loves. “My goal would definitely be to have my flower shop! I have lots of ideas that I can’t wait to start.” Her enthusiasm and positivity about the future is obvious and she wants to see more young people get their dream job. “I think the we need to educate everyone to know that you must do a job you’re passionate about because you will get so much more out of life with it!”
Ann Crane Clara’s Manager is also impressed at her progress in the workplace. “We at Armagh Blooms are delighted with Clara’s work which has improved greatly. She is getting on really well with us and all our staff. My niece Louise is starting CAFRE in September and Clara has been a great help to her. We are getting great reviews from customers when they here that she is in Squad UK. We can see Clara’s confidence improving immensely.”