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WorldSkills UK National Finals – Three in a Row for NRC Industrial Robotics Students


Group standing in front of industrial robot

For the third consecutive year, Northern Regional College will be represented in Industrial Robotics category at the WorldSkills UK national finals. Hannah Currie from Randalstown and Peter O’Neill from Ballymoney, both Foundation Degree in Engineering at the College in Ballymena, secured their spot by impressing judging in the Northern Ireland regional qualifying rounds to finish among the top eight in the UK.

Northern Regional College has stellar record in Industrial Robotics at the WorldSkills UK National competitions with students winning gold, silver and bronze medals at the national finals in recent years.  

Hannah and Peter are among the talented young 442 talented apprentices and students from all over the UK to qualify for the national finals in 51 different skills areas.

 In addition to Industrial Robotics, Northern Regional College will be represented at WorldSkills UK national finals this year  in Mechatronics (Canaan Carleton and Kyle Davidson), Plumbing (Morgan Finney) and Welding (Jamie McArthur-Gill).

Hannah is a second year Higher Level Apprentice (HLA) in Engineering with Wrightbus where she is employed as a Manufacturing Technician.

The former Cambridge House student said that the combination of studying at the College while employed by Wrightbus would help her career progression:

“I have learnt a range of new skills from the variety of subjects in my course, from lathe work to working a CNC machine, as well as developing my maths skills.

“These will all help my career progression as I am more confident about working out angles or doing measurements and it’s essential to get this right before designing, creating parts or jigs.”

Hannah added that she had really enjoyed her experience of competing in the WorldSkills UK regional qualifying competitions and was looking forward to going to the national finals.

She explained that not only was it an enjoyable experience, but it was very beneficial and the knowledge as skills developed as they prepared for the national finals, would help with her future career path.

“We did extra training ahead of the national finals and developed new skills which are not only related to industrial robotics, but we’ve developed other important skills for the workplace, such as teambuilding and communication. 

Hannah said being involved in WorldSkills UK had opened her eyes to the growing opportunities for people with the right skills set.

“As more industries progress towards automation, this will be a growing area so it will be increasingly important to have the necessary skills and knowledge of industrial robotics.

“It is a challenging area but it is also very rewarding to see the benefits of automation, for example reducing production times to improve efficiency. 

“I would certainly encourage others to get involved in WorldSkills. We got to travel, developed contacts with automated companies and learnt more about the new opportunities that automation can lead to. And apart from developing new skills and knowledge, it is fantastic to be able to put on your CV that you were a WorldSkills UK national finalist!”

After leaving Coleraine Academical Institution with A levels in Maths, Physics and Chemistry and 10 GCSEs, including 2 A* and 4 As, Peter accepted a place to study at Queen’s University in Belfast but admitted that he struggled to cope with the transition from school to university and left after first year.

He then trained as a welder and was employed by McAuley’s Engineering and, was subsequently transferred to work on tube bending machines.

“While I enjoyed working for McAuley’s, I was disappointed not to have been able to take my education further. I investigated my options and realised that the Foundation Degree at Northern Regional College would allow me to continue my education.

 “The Foundation Degree makes the transition from school much smoother and more manageable, and the smaller class size allows the teacher to interact with all the students to make sure they are coping with the material being taught. It also means you get a more ‘personal’ education by getting to know the lecturers and other students in the class. “

Peter continued that the Foundation Degree involved more coursework than he was used which meant he had to improve his time management skills to ensure that his assignments were completed on time and to a high standard.

“I have always been a very quiet student and did not participate in many extra-curricular activities but being involved in WorldSkills has helped me to come out of my shell and this has given me the confidence to try other activities.”

He said he would have no hesitation recommending the Foundation Degree as an alternative route for school leavers and feels that skills and knowledge he has developed, both as a result of the Foundation Degree and through his participation in WorldSkills, will help him in the future:

“I would encourage other students to get involved in skill competitions. You get to learn new skills which could open future job opportunities. Participating in WorldSkills and qualifying for the national finals is also something that will stands on a CV, even if the job you’re applying for isn’t related to the specific skill.

The WorldSkills series of competitions uses international best practice to raise standards in apprenticeships and technical education through competition-based training assessment and benchmarking. To reach WorldSkills UK national finals, participants had to compete in regional qualifying competitions and the eight highest scoring competitors in each skill area from across Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales secured their place in the national final.  

WorldSkills UK national finals will take place from 14 – 17 November at colleges, independent training providers and universities across Greater Manchester.