Bath College is celebrating an incredibly successful three days at the SkillBuild 2017 UK National Final, held at the NEC in Birmingham.

Students Josh Underwood and Ollie Takhar represented the college in stonemasonry and painting and decorating, battling for the top spot in their discipline as part of a tough and demanding competition.

Josh, an apprentice with Architectural Stone in Cardiff, did exceptionally well, coming second out of eight finalists to win a silver medal. The competition was also a big success for Ollie, who has been selected by judges to train with the WorldSkills UK squad over the next year. Both students were picked to compete against the best in the country after scoring highly in this year’s SkillBuild regional qualifiers.

Josh, who took part in the finals last year, said: “I was a lot calmer and I felt relaxed because I’d done it once already and I knew the system. It’s a 19-hour competition, but it’s a tough task to finish within that time. Last year I rushed the task because I didn’t focus on accuracy.”

“This year I was happy with what I did, but you never know whether it’s good enough because you don’t see other peoples’ work in detail. It’s a good feeling to get the recognition for my hard work. To have that silver medal on my CV will set me apart from other stonemasons.”

The SkillBuild 2017 UK National Final was part of the Skills Show, the country’s largest skills, careers and apprenticeships event. Thousands of people visited the show from November 16 to November 18, which finished with a large awards ceremony on the Saturday night. Competitors are judged according to strict marking criteria, which takes in their ability to interpret the drawings they are given and execute them.

Ollie said: “I was a bit nervous to start with, but once I knew the design I was working on and I got started it was all right. In the end, the competition went really quickly. I enjoyed it, so I’m looking forward to the chance to train with the WorldSkills squad.”“I found out I’d been selected when my name flashed up on the screen. I wasn’t expecting it, I was just sitting down, relaxing and watching the ceremony. Now that I’ve been given the chance, I’m going to carry on and keep pushing myself to improve – just to test myself that little bit further.”

Being selected to train with the WorldSkills UK squad means Ollie could have the chance to compete at WorldSkills Kazan 2019. The competition, in Russia, will bring together participants from over 70 countries, who will compete against each other in over 50 different skills.

Ollie’s tutor Graham Walmsley said: “We spent a lot of time preparing Ollie for the competition, practicing hanging with pattern papers, working with frisk film to transfer designs and lettering.

“He worked really hard, nothing can prepare you for the scale of the competition but Ollie rarely gets flustered when working. One of the judges praised the quality of Ollie’s work, especially his undercoat on the door which he said was very high quality.”

“I’m ecstatic really to see that he’s made so much progress, within 14 months he’s gone from being a novice to an accomplished painter. From the work he’s produced, they can see potential. It’s not a given that he will go to Russia, but knowing Ollie he will take the training in his stride and go far.”

Josh’s tutor Ray Sumner said: “We have a long list of accomplished stonemasons who have trained here and Josh is among the best. He’s done exceptionally well in other competitions and to get to the finals is an achievement in itself as the competition has been incredibly tough. It’s absolutely fantastic that he’s won the silver medal. He has great ability, although he’s modest with it, and he sets the standard for the rest of the stonemasonry group.”

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