A Derry student has qualified for the equivalent of the Olympic Games in skilled trades and will travel to Kazan, Russia this August to take on the best of the best from 60 countries around the world.

The 45th WorldSkills event will take place over four days this summer and will bring competitors together from all over the world to compete in 56 different skills, one of which will be from our own city.

WorldSkills UK is an organisation which is a partnership between business, education and governments.  It works to accelerate the development of young people’s skills from national to world-class standards

Northwest Regional College student Declan Porter has been selected by WorldSkills UK  to represent Team UK in Automotive Technology after a long and challenging two year process which has brought him head to head with the best young mechanics at home and abroad.

WorldSkills UK aims to champion skilled young people by challenging and inspiring them to reach their full potential as well as accelerating their personal and professional development.

Still only 22 years old, Declan has a bright future in the automotive industry ahead of him, but first is the small matter of bringing home what he hopes will be a medal from Kazan in just a few weeks’ time.

“It’s a big achievement,” he acknowledged.

“There has been a lot of pressure and a whole pile of work to get this far. There is a lot in it and a lot of hours put into it. To be honest I didn’t think I was going to get this far but thanks to the support of everyone from the college and the training that I have gone through, I have managed to get here.”

Declan first began his WorldSkills journey at 19 years old, and although reluctant at first, he took the plunge and has found that each challenge along the way has brought the best out of him, making him a more skilled and more confident young man.

“At the start I thought it was all a bit of fun going through the challenges but now, at this stage, you have to be switched on, especially with the changes in technology, you have to be really focused and know what you’re doing,” he explained.

“I was never away from home before this and I was never on a plane until I got involved with skills competitions. Being away from home, attending training sessions, is different but it’s good, it’s worth it. But there is a lot of effort, work and hassle, but it’s good hassle because it’s improving my technical skills and abilities.

“You’re going places and seeing things you wouldn’t otherwise see and the training is really something. I was scared to do it at the start. I said no to Barry, I don’t want to do that, but he said just do it and see. Ever since then I have progressed from College to WorldSkills level in the space of three years and I haven’t looked back.”

Encouraged

Barry McDaid, an Automotive Lecturer at NWRC, and Training Manager for WorldSkills UK in Automotive Technology encouraged and now mentors Declan ahead of the finals in Kazan.

“It’s a massive achievement for Declan to have become the WorldSkills UK representative in Automotive Technology,” he said.

“It has been a challenging two-year process of elimination with other competitors from England, Scotland and Wales. For Declan to have got to the point where he is representing WorldSkills UK in Automotive Technology and to be going to Kazan in August is tremendous.

“It is also a great credit to his employer, Donaghy’s Garage, and indeed to Northwest Regional College for providing training, education and facilities that enables students to compete at this world class level.

“North West Regional College have been a long-term supporter of WorldSkills, producing competitors and providing training managers in other vocational areas including construction and electrical installation.

“They see what great benefit it is to students, how it helps develop their employability skills, builds confidence and resilience not to mention improving technical skills to a world class level. This also helps improve mindset, makes them work ready and sought after in industry. The competitors example also feeds out to other students and provides a source of inspiration and role modelling.”

The UK team for the WorldSkills Competition is made up of 38 of the UK’s most talented apprentices and students, four of which will come from Northern Ireland.

As well as Declan, there are other competitors specialising in car painting, landscape gardening, plastering and dry wall systems. For each individual, WorldSkills has broadened their horizons both professionally and personally and Barry believes that Declan is developing technical and personal skills which will benefit him throughout his life.

“It has been a transformative experience for Declan. For me, seeing the progression from someone who was a competent apprentice and trades person to someone competing at a world class level has been inspiring,” he explained.

“His personal skills, in terms of his own confidence, self-belief, being able to deal with pressure situations and competitive situations have been transformed. He has a very steady nature and has really built upon his ability to deal with pressure and deal with competition.

“His technical skills and standards have also improved massively providing a confidence in his technical ability that enhances the industry and helps build standards. Technology within the automotive industry is changing so fast and requires dedicated skilled people like Declan. There are jobs within the automotive industry for committed and motivated young people.

Whatever else happens in Russia in August, Declan’s achievements are an achievement in themselves, an example and inspiration to others from the region of what can be achieved through belief, hard work and perseverance..

“While NWRC have had other competitors within automotive competition at regional and national level in the past, none of whom have progressed to this level in WorldSkills,” McDaid stated. “That’s a great achievement and can inspires others.”

Medal hopes

Having come this far, Declan wants to go one step further and bring home a medal or medallion of excellence in his field. To do that he must compete successfully against 33 other competitors in the Automotive Technology section, a challenge which he has prepared for having competed in both the Northern Ireland and UK Final to get this far. That competitive attribute, he admits, is in his nature.

“Competing in the college competition followed by the Northern Ireland final and the UK Heats and Final held at WorldSkills UK LIVE in NEC Birmingham puts you through a lot of pressure so you’re  continually adjusting to it,” he continued.

“I have done so many now that the competition pressure doesn’t really get to me anymore but the pressure does be on whenever you’re on a task and you don’t know what you’re up against. The only thing to do is keep calm and go over the process that you’ve learned and you will get there.”

Kazan is directly in his sights this summer but Declan is already thinking about the future and he is in no doubt that the WorldSkills experience has opened up doors which he would never have believed possible before this journey started.

“If I carry on doing what I’m I could even be amongst the best diagnostic technicians in Northern Ireland,” he added.

“I would be showing Northern Ireland that they have someone who competed at world level in Kazan and was able to bring back a medal or medallion, maybe.

“Students should push themselves on. Even if you don’t want to do it, if you have the ability then just do it, you never know where it will take you.”

There will be 1600 young people from over 70 countries competing at WorldSkills Kazan 2019.

WorldSkills Kazan 2019 takes place from 22 – 27 August and you can follow WorldSkills UK and indeed Declan’s progress progress on social media channels using @worldskillsuk

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