WorldSkills Competition - a chance for young tradies to show skills

Posted on 2016-10-06 by CM


Author - Libby Wilson, Fairfax Media

Phoebe Coers wanted to be a pro mountain biker when she was little. Now 20, she’s an apprentice plumber and she’s one of about 75 Kiwi apprentices and trainees who showed off their skills at the national WorldSkills competition. They’re taking on challenging projects in everything from hairdressing to carpentry during the two-day event, Friday and Saturday, at Hamilton’s Wintec Rotokauri Campus. The top competitors can win a spot in the Tool Blacks team, which will travel to Abu Dhabi in 2017.

“When I was younger I had no idea [what I wanted to do],” Coers said. She dreamed of a mountain biking career, but her Dad was a little more down to earth and suggested she get a qualification. Coers had a practical hand and work experience sold her on plumbing. “I’ve never looked back, really,” she said. Her employer, Foley Plumbers in Dunedin, pay the costs of her apprenticeship, which she sees as a pretty good deal. Because of the trust needed on the job, workers get to know each other well and it’s like working with your mates, she said. Female plumbers seem few and far between, though. The first two that Coers met were some WorldSkills competitors.   

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Phoebe Coers, 20, hadn't met other female plumbers before the WorldSkills national competition.


For Drew Wharehinga, flowers are the focus. A trades academy got the 18-year-old Aucklander into floristry and gave her direction after school. She had been studying hospitality, but quickly changed tack – “just playing with pretty flowers is fun”. She recently did her first wedding bouquets and is waiting for photos of her handiwork to arrive. “They gave me the flowers and the foliage and told me to have a go at it,” she said. Wharehinga’s looking forward to doing a full wedding by herself, but in the meantime is finishing her training, which is free under the Youth Guarantee initiative.

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Drew Wharehinga's favourite flower is the peony, which is out of season at the moment, so the 18-year-old Aucklander training to be a florist was working with lilies and daffodils.


In the trades workshop, auto technician Caleb Adamson, 18, was one of the competitors stripping down, assessing and reassembling a gearbox – all with a ticking clock. He’s a fan of learning while you earn, works for Waikato firm Walling Contracting in Eureka, and aims to be qualified by the time he is 21, and yes, friends and family ask him to fix their vehicles.

Tokoroa fitter Shea Keir, 19, was also pulling apart a gearbox. He rates responsibility as one of the top benefits of getting into a trade, as well as getting used to dealing with a range of people. While he is enjoying getting paid to learn, he’s not ruling out further study.

The WorldSkills New Zealand competition runs at Wintec Rotokauri, in Hamilton, from 30 September to 1 October. The medal ceremony will be held in the Atrium of Wintec’s city campus, from 10.30am on Sunday the 2nd of October 2016. The competition is like the Olympics of the trades, WorldSkills NZ chief executive Malcolm Harris said. Globally, it attracts thousands of competitors, and global sponsors such as Samsung recruit from the top talent.

Waikato winners were: Cargen Cairns – Autobody Repair and Shea Keir – Industrial Mechanic Millwright, who both won gold at WorldSkills. Cairns was also awarded Best In Region for Waikato.