Back in 2009, Mark and his teammate Chris Downey were silver medallists in WorldSkills UK national skills finals. They were selected for Squad UK and went on to compete in a series of international competitions in Lisbon, Germany, Finland, Ireland, Holland and Estonia. Their run of international competitions culminated with the WorldSkills international finals in London in 2011 - the ‘skills Olympics’ - where they were awarded Medallions of Excellence for meeting world-class standards in Mechatronics.
“Back then, mechatronics was a brand-new skill, so we took every possible opportunity to compete and increase our knowledge and skills,” explained Mark. Now that he’s an Electrical and Electronic Engineering lecturer, his students are benefiting from his vast experience in mechatronics and automation.
Canaan and Kyle are both in the second year of a Foundation Degree in Electronic and Electronic Engineering at the College’s Ballymena campus. Earlier this year, they were among the thousands of students and apprentices from across the UK to compete in regional qualifying competitions in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. The top eight in each skill category were selected to compete in the WorldSkills UK national finals in Manchester this week.
A past pupil of Rainey Endowed, Canaan completed a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Engineering at the College’s Magherafelt campus.
“With the Level 3 qualification, I was able to secure an apprenticeship with Copeland, a Cookstown engineering firm and, as part of the apprenticeship, I was enrolled into a Foundation Degree in Electrical Engineering at the College’s Ballymena campus. I’m now in my second year of the course and so far, it has gone well, and I would recommend this pathway to anyone interesting in studying engineering.
The skills and knowledge developed as a Foundation degree student have helped Canaan in his workplace. He said: “I have learned some programming, including Ladder and SFC which makes my role as a maintenance apprentice with Copeland easier as I now have an improved understanding of how the machine programs work on the factory floor.”
He added that being involved in the WorldSkills competitions was very beneficial:
“I have learned different troubleshooting techniques for pneumatic, electro-pneumatic and PLC operated systems. It’s a great way to learn and I would have no hesitation encouraging others to get involved.”
After completing GCSEs at Magherafelt High School, Kyle, who is from Bellaghy and employed by Wrightbus as a Production Driveline Technician, completed NVQ Levels 2 and 3 in Vehicle Maintenance, Repair and Auto Electrical at the College’s Farm Lodge campus in Ballymena. Fifteen years later, he was back at the same campus to commence a foundation degree in Electrical & Electronic Engineering.
Commenting on his decision to return to the College as a mature student, Kyle said: “I felt having a Foundation Degree would enable me to learn new skills and progress my career and I would encourage others to do the same if the opportunity arises.
“Studying for the Foundation Degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering has given me a greater in-depth knowledge and I have developed skills that are relevant for work and progression path.”
Kyle added his knowledge of PLC and automation had improved greatly as a result of his participation in WorldSkills UK.
“Now that we have qualified for the national finals, we have been doing additional training which also helps with my work at Wrightbus.”