The Value of competitions

HIP apprentice of the year competition 2020

Across the plumbing and heating industry, there are many great competitions each year aimed at promoting high standards of skills and knowledge.

In the present climate, competitions are a great way of engaging with learners, lifting spirits and standing out from the crowd (for colleges and for students).

Competitions are a great opportunity for students to gain real life skills whilst using their recently learned practical knowledge in a pressurised environment. What better way could there be to prepare for life on-the-job?

The competitions tend to focus on industrial standards and problem solving. Industry works closely to set the agendas and sponsorship. This can lead to some phenomenal prizes and awards.

Students really enjoy participating, grow in confidence and learn a lot very quickly. It motivates them and gives them a reason to further dedicate themselves to their studies.

Competitive spirit

At the same time, in my experience, staff become very competitive too. They encourage and motivate students because they want their learners to do well and represent them and the college as the best around. So, competitions can have a real positive impact on making people better teachers too.

Competition participation can make learners more appealing to prospective employers. It doesn’t have to be external and high-profile outside of a college or training centre – in-house competitions hold the same value. It’s all about identifying people who are prepared to put themselves out there and go above and beyond what they are required to do. Ultimately, it provides something solid to highlight a commitment to learning, overcoming challenges and accepting scrutiny as a part of the job.

The biggest event across all apprenticeships is a global competition called WorldSkills. This starts out in the UK and covers dozens of skills from many sectors, including plumbing and heating. After national qualifiers, the UK WorldSkills final takes place at the Skills Show and can attract as many as 75,000 people attending. This can lead to taking on the World!

I am proud to be the Head Judge for the HIP Magazine Learner of the year competition. This is run via the national colleges network across the UK, starting out with regional heats and ending with a two-day grand finale. This year, as the pandemic has hit the ability for people to move around and attend practical skills tests, the HIP heats have changed to an assessment of technical knowledge with a Grand Final Skill Show being planned.

SkillPLUMB is another annual competition run by the BPEC charity and awarding body. It is designed to promote standards and skills across the industry. It also involves a series of challenging test. The CIPHE is a keen supporter as young plumbers test their skills on a range of practical assignments.

Colleges and learners should not hold back, as the enjoyment of participation far outweighs any initial nerves. Winning is great, but it’s not everything. Participation presses the fast-forward button on learning and means gaining invaluable experience and being even better prepared for future challenges.

And I am still counting down until the day arrives when a winner of one of the post-qualification competitions can trace their journey to becoming UK Plumber or Heating Engineer of the Year back to the day they first signed up for a college competition.

By Jerry Whiteley, Technical Manager

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