Liam, part of the Squad UK Stonemasonry team describes how the knowledge and skills he’s gained from taking part in our international training programme has helped him to produce work at a high standard and will benefit him throughout his career.
For Liam Macaulay how best to learn his skill was almost as important as the skill itself. “I chose an apprenticeship in architectural stonemasonry because I felt it was a better way of learning for me. Knowing that I wouldn’t always be in a classroom and that there would be the variety of practical learning too.”
Liam was influenced by his teachers who encouraged him to think broadly about access to career pathways. “There were one or two teachers at school who taught me that you can still be successful even without going through university because there are always other paths for learning new skills, whatever they may be. Hearing this gave me the inspiration to make something of myself; university wasn’t something that greatly interested me.”
Liam was no stranger to WorldSkills UK and was keen to become a competitor from the get-go. “I’d heard of these competitions from various people I’ve come across throughout my career and they always said positive things. I wanted to be involved in them from the first time of hearing about them to give myself some sort of challenge and better myself in my trade.”
His competition journey began in May 2017 in the first year of his apprenticeship and he made it through the National Qualifiers to compete in the WorldSkills UK National Finals in November 2019 at the NEC Birmingham. Liam put all his knowledge, efforts and skills to the test in front of thousands of spectators earning a highly commended award.
Liam feels he has learned a lot from his experiences as a competitor which will help him both in competition and in his everyday work.
“I now know how important it is not to undermine the preparation and planning stages. Just how much easier everything is when you have a plan in place before carrying out the required task. And not least how a little bit of self-confidence goes a long way in making everything run a bit smoother.”
Competing is all about overcoming challenges and finding solutions, for Liam this meant getting to grips with having a clear understanding of the working drawings he and his fellow competitors were given. “From starting my apprenticeship, drawings were always my weak point. Overcoming this hasn’t been easy but being consistent with practising templates, just reading drawings over and over again and also going right back to the basics then taking it from there is when I started to overcome what I saw as my weakness.”
Liam thinks that more young people should follow their career dreams and become a WorldSkills UK competitor saying, “Don’t hesitate, if it’s even a thought in your head enter the competition. The experience I’ve had so far is indescribable. I’ve gained so much more knowledge in so many aspects of my skill that will continue to benefit me throughout my whole working career. I’ve even become more confident as a person. My ability to communicate with others has also improved greatly so I would say it’s definitely something that should not be turned down.”
Competing is also going to benefit Liam in his future career journey. “It’s an amazing thing to have WorldSkills UK Competitions on my CV. It shows that I’m able to produce work to a high standard.”
As a member of Squad UK Liam is taking part in WorldSkills UK’s unique skill set and mindset training akin to elite sports trading and development and preparing him for the possibility of making it into Team UK. “It felt amazing to be selected for Squad UK. I was so happy, I’d been working for this opportunity from day one and I managed it.” Liam is keen to make the most of his learning opportunities even during the COVID-19 pandemic which temporarily prevented on-site training. “My favourite part of being in Squad UK so far has been the weekly video calls. After each one I feel I’ve learned that bit more each time.”
Stephen Townsend of Environment Scotland and Liam’s tutor at Forth Valley College, thinks that competing has given Liam lots of opportunities that wouldn’t be possible otherwise saying, “The training methods we use and the opportunities to see work are uniquely Scottish. Liam has had the chance through Squad UK training, to get a taste of the wider world of stonemasonry techniques. He’s been coached in depth by excellent tutors and learned skills that help him work in a more efficient manner. It’s not just technical skills that Liam has improved, but his attitude to learning coupled with his abilities which really make the difference.”