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The annual WorldSkills competition was held in London last October and Chris van Zijl, the local winner of the national Young Welder of the Year competition, took part.
WorldSkills is an international competition for the trades and technical vocation.
It is supported by the Services Seta and the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority (MerSeta).
Van Zijl ended just seven points shy of a medal of excellence – an award given to competitors who achieve a certain level in the three-day competition.
His participation was sponsored by Babcock – a supplier to the energy, process, mining and construction industries in Africa.
Van Zijl was trained by the SA Institute of Welding (SAIW) for six months, three of them at Babcock’s premises, before flying to London for the competition.
He ended 20th out of 31 competitors in his category, ahead of contestants from countries that included Germany, Finland, Belgium, Norway, Hong Kong and Switzerland.
“SAIW has seen a significant increase in entries for the national young welders competition, as well as an increase in skill and talent levels from the entrants,” says executive director Jim Guild.
WorldSkills is the biggest trade competition in the world, where skilled young people compete in 40 disciplines.
Participants include professionals in traditional trades such as painters, metal workers, carpenters, florists, tile layers, restaurateurs, web designers and welders.
Participation is open to applicants up to the age of 22.
The WorldSkills competition takes place every two years and is hosted by a different country each time.
Each country may send one competitor in each of the trades.
The next WorldSkills competition will be held from July 2 to 7 next year in Leipzig, Germany.
The SA WorldSkills welding committee met on February 20 to plan for the next national competition.
The organising committee includes representatives from MerSeta, Afrox, ArcelorMittal, SAIW and other industry members.
Van Zijl’s accomplishment is a significant improvement on previous years and the objective is to improve continuously and eventually win a medal of excellence,” says Etienne Nell, the training services manager at SAIW and WorldSkills expert in welding.
“It has to be kept in mind that medal-winning competitors come from countries in which the competitor is selected more than two years in advance and then put through an intensive training programme aimed specifically at the WorldSkills event.
“In South Africa, our entrants come from an open competition and then have only limited preparation time.”
Entries for the 2012 Young Welder of the Year competition will open shortly.
Potential contestants can get more information from SAIW at email@example.com.
They can also visit www.saiw.co.za.