Northern Regional College Hosts SkillWeld 2018


The regional finals of SkillWeld 2018 – the UK’S most prestigious national welding competition were held at Northern Regional College’s Newtownabbey campus. Young welders across Northern Ireland took part in the competition to be in with a chance of qualifying for the national finals in Birmingham later this year - and a step closer to a potentially lucrative career as an industrial welder.

The engineering sector currently contributes over 25% quarter of the UK’S GDP. There is an acute shortage of skilled industrial welders, not just in the UK but globally. The American Welding Society claims it faces a shortage of 400,000 welding operators by 2024. The average age of welders in the UK and Australia has now eclipsed 55 years, which is good news for qualified and experienced welders who can command higher salaries when their skills are in high demand.

The top three finishers in the final were: 1st place, Robert Ferguson, Limavady, a welder ESL Engineering Ltd, Coleraine who did the Advanced Welding course at Newtownabbey campus; 2nd place, Aaron Heggarty, Larne, City and Guilds student at Ballymena and an apprentice with MAN Engineering; 3rd place, Thomas Mercer, Carrickfergus, City and Guilds student at the College’s Newtownabbey campus and an apprentice with Cimpina, Ltd.

Having made it through the initial stage of inter-campus competitions, the regional finalists had four hours to complete four different weld tests covering MAG, MMA and TIG welding processes.

Scott Walker, who helped organise the regional finals at the College’s Newtownabbey campus said that all the competitors were to be congratulated as they displayed very high level of skills and adapted well to working under pressure in a competitive atmosphere. 

He explains that when the aggregate scores from all the regional finals across the UK are collated, the top ten will be invited to participate in the national finals which will take place in November.

“Regional competitions have been held across the UK since April. When they are all completed, the top ten competitors from all over the UK will be invited to compete in the SkillWeld National Final at The Skills Show, NEC Birmingham in November 2018.

Scott is no stranger to the SkillWeld competition and knows from his own personal experience how beneficial the competition can be.

Scott, who is now a lecturer at the College's Newtownabbey campus, won the Regional final in 2015 when he was a technician at the College and doing in a Foundation Degree in Manufacturing Engineering at the Ballymena campus.

“I really enjoyed taking part in SkillWeld as it gave me the chance to demonstrate my skills to some of the UK’s top welding experts. Coming first in the regional finals is a great thing to have on your CV.”

He continued that an additional incentive for the finalists this year was the opportunity to qualify for a welding code.

“After visual inspection a number of weld tests have been selected to go for further analysis and destructive tests, this will hopefully gain the selected students their own personal welding code”

“Skills competitions help raise standards of training and give students an opportunity to showcase their skills, qualify for a welding code and be in with a chance of getting to the national finals.

“SkillWeld also helps to put the spotlight on welding skills and the potential career opportunities for well qualified and skilled welders. There is a shortage of welders across the engineering sector in Northern Ireland and qualified welders are always in high demand.”

Students who successfully complete a welding course at Northern Regional College will get an industry recognised qualification which will greatly improve their employment prospects and help them pursue a rewarding career in engineering sector.

Northern Regional College is teaming up with two local companies, McAuley Engineering and Hutchinson’s Engineering to address the chronic shortage of skilled welders by developing intensive training programmes tailored to meet the specific needs of the companies.