South West College student, Seamus Goodfellow, will represent the UK at the 2016 EuroSkills in Gothenburg, Sweden in December, when five hundred competitors from over twenty countries gather to compete in thirty-five vocational skills, in what is Europe’s biggest skills competition.
From Donaghmore, Seamus has been at South West College for four years, and is currently studying Level Four ‘Light Vehicle Repair’. His participation at EuroSkills will be part of a journey that has seen him progress through UK regional heats, and UK finals, where he gained success by picking up a bronze medal, and which he hopes will take him all the way to WorldSkills finals in Abu Dhabi next year.
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The Automotive Technology category, which Seamus will be competing in, comprises four tasks in four different areas: Engine Mechanical, Engine Electrical, Body Electrical, and Chassis. Although Seamus has gained prolific experience in these areas over the last few years, some of the skills required will be new to him, and he says demonstrating the skills in the competitive tasks is different to the day-to-day work he is accustomed to. Many of the tasks he will be faced with won’t appear in an average garage, and even for those that do, some of the tools he is used to, including all power tools, are not permitted in the event. ‘The difference is unbelievable,’ he says. ‘The standard they expect, compared to the work you see in a local garage is amazing. Working to these standards, and learning the skills needed to do so, is great encouragement and practice for what I hope to do in the future.’
With these high standards in mind, Seamus has around twenty-five days of specific, organised training scheduled between now and December, and this week, World Skills training manager for automotive technology, Willie McIlwraith, has visited South West College to put him through his paces and prepare him for the tasks he can expect to face.
Willie claims that these tasks, which are each three hours long, are as much an examination of endurance and time management as they are skill, and explains the variety of different situations the competitors will be met with. He says, ‘The engine mechanical task will require the ability to dismantle an engine, measure it for wear, and assemble it again. The engine electrical task will involve diagnosing a number of faults and repairing them so the engine can start and run smoothly. The body electrical component will require competitors to diagnose and rectify faults; and the chassis system task will involve dealing with breaks, steering and suspension.’
In preparation Seamus will try and recreate these tasks and successfully carry them out, but Willie warns that when it comes to becoming a EuroSkills gold medallist, skill is only one piece of the puzzle. He says, ‘Believe it or not, it is actually only about 52% skill. The rest of the competitors attributes are based around things like confidence, planning, dedication, lifestyle, time management, attention to detail, healthy eating, mental strength and crucially communication skills. To be the very best, competitors need to be outstanding in a wide range of areas.’
Despite the level of competition and the high barrier of success, Willie says that by studying at South West College Seamus has a good platform for success. He says, ‘there has clearly been strong investment in Motor Vehicle, and there is modern technology here for a good teaching experience and for students to learn from. It’s a fantastic training resource.’
Seamus certainly agrees. After four years in the college, he says that the environment he has worked in has already helped him look forward to a future career in motoring technology. This has been reiterated with the recent success of fellow motor vehicle students Gareth Murphy (Omagh) and Walter McElroy and Ryan Kane (Enniskillen) who have also achieved success by qualifying for the UK Autotech finals in November. With hard work and training ahead in the next few months, these students will join Seams in hoping there is further success to come.