17 Apr 2015

Top apprentices battle it out

4:06 pm on 17 April 2015

The country's top apprentices are battling it out with their counterparts from six other countries in the World Skills Oceania competition being held in Hamilton this week.

Michael Benson

Michael Benson Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

One hundred competitors from New Zealand, India, Australia, China, Korea, Malaysia, and Canada are taking part at the Wintec Rotokauri Campus.

More than 30 trade skills are being featured ranging from floristry to welding.

An extra incentive for the local competitors is the chance to be selected for New Zealand team the Tool Blacks to take part in the International World Skills competition later in the year.

Sheet metal worker Michael Benson has been juggling his work with plenty of practice in the months leading up to the competition.

"So, what I have been doing is coming in at five o'clock in the morning and doing an hour's training - practical, hands-on stuff - and because I have to do computer CAD drawing, which is a bit out of my element, I have been staying on after a ten hour day to about 9:30 at night doing drawings, and just trying to get that time up."

Those taking part have come up through regional and national finals to represent their country.

Nadine Gratton, a hairdresser from Nelson, said while they had an idea of what would be required in the competition, standards and styles differed from country to country.

Nadine Grattan

Nadine Grattan Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

"It can differ from hair texture and type (and) because everyone has different trainers, and different trainers have different styles.

"We all have our own personal preference the way it looks ... which is quite cool because then you get to see a variety."

Also competing is Chelsea Kruiger, a car mechanic or, to give it the correct title, automotive technician.

"We've got five challenges we have to do," she said. One of them is strip and rebuild an engine. Strip and rebuild a gear-box. Engine management faults like injectors and stuff like that and then electrical faults. All the lighting and wiring and stuff."

She said the work required in the competition was the same as in her real job but the pressure was much more intense. At work, there was no-one looking over her shoulder all the time.

Even in the more sedate world of floristry the pressure is on, and according to Amelia Addis from Palmerston North, it's not your everyday floral arrangement the judges are looking for.

"Think fashion catwalk versus buying something from Farmers.

"It's very very different, it's sort of something a customer wouldn't come in and request."

Amelia Addis

Amelia Addis Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

New Zealand team leader Rick Andersen said World Skills was all about promoting and encouraging trades as a relevant career path for young people.

"Develops skill excellence, raises standards in the training industry within New Zealand and it gives us the opportunity to bench mark New Zealand training internationally."

Apprentices taking part in World Skills often get a jump on others working a trade, he said.

"We find the competitors from World Skills New Zealand are more likely to become supervisors, managers, company owners and directors, and we really are training the future captains of industry within New Zealand."

The 23-strong team will be vying for 18 places at World Skills International in Brazil in August.