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Squad UK
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Gold medal winner at 2019 National Finals
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CNC Milling

Joel, an apprentice at Rolls-Royce, won Gold at the CNC Milling National Finals before being selected to join Squad UK. He explains how taking part in WorldSkills UK Competitions has developed both his personal and technical skills and why he would encourage more young people to get involved.

For Joel Keen engineering has long been a strong interest. “Building miniature locomotives at a local model engineering club and a longstanding interest in engineering combined to inspired me to consider practical metalwork as a career. I was involved in some informal technical training and building my own projects. I wasn’t fully aware of the opportunities around apprenticeships in engineering; then I went to an open day at the local college engineering department where the tutor was familiar with the types of projects I’d been involved in. As a result, I applied for an apprenticeship just to see what might come of it. The rest is history.”

Having heard about WorldSkills UK Competitions during his apprenticeship from fellow students, Joel was keen to join. In 2019 he made it through the National Qualifiers to compete in the National Finals held as part of WorldSkills UK LIVE at Birmingham NEC in front of thousands of spectators, winning a coveted Gold Medal.

Taking part has also improved Joel’s approach to his work overall.

“I have learned better time management, how to keep focused and calm under pressure and have developed technical skills to a high level.”

“I have also benefited from learning how to stay mentally focused and in the right place to perform to the standard required, while still setting sights set on my continued development.”

The opportunity to develop and excel at his skills through competition has Joel feels, benefited hugely his apprenticeship performance. “The standard set by WorldSkills UK Competitions is higher than the usual requirement for my course, so the end point assessment can be covered to an extent by the skills, knowledge and behaviours I have developed through competing.”

He has really thrived on the challenges that competing has brought him. “I really enjoy working with like-minded people towards the test projects and learning at an accelerated rate throughout the competition cycle.”

As a member of Squad UK Joel is now undergoing the intensive skillset and mindset training that WorldSkills UK is so renowned for and which will help him drive up his technical and personal skills even further. He is in the running to be selected for Team UK and the chance to compete on the international stage at EuroSkills or WorldSkills, pitting himself against the very best of his peers at home and overseas.

Joel believes many young people will certainly benefit from entering WorldSkills Competitions, and says, “Definitely enter, even if you think you’re not at the level required. The training and opportunities provided will improve your understanding. And if you engage with the training at the right level, there won’t be any advantage to someone else in having done the job for longer or knowing more ‘stuff’. The enthusiasm and drive are something of a prerequisite but the level to which they are taken, is entirely down to you.”

Asked what educators need to do to promote technical education training and careers to young people Joel says, “Don’t assume funding equals quality. WorldSkills UK has the quality standards across industry benchmarked to the rest of the world. Don’t let us get left behind just because the syllabus doesn’t require the extra work!”

Mick Jones Training Manager for Rolls-Royce who oversees Joel’s career progress says, “Taking part in WorldSkills UK Competitions has definitely helped Joel to become more confident. He is now much more likely to approach colleagues and have a meaningful conversation about jobs. His Manager speaks very highly of him and says he is the go-to person for complex jobs.”

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