News | Silver medal for Tool Blacks at WorldSkills International

10/07/2013
Mike West at WorldSkills
Mike West at WorldSkills

Michael West, aviation industry trainee and New Zealand entrant at WorldSkills employed by the Royal New Zealand Air Force and supported by ServiceIQ won a silver medal in the aircraft maintenance category at the 42nd WorldSkills International Competition in Leipzig, Germany, held last week.

The largest international skills competition in the world, WorldSkills is considered the Olympics for trades.  Only the best of a nation's young apprentices can earn the right to compete at this level in categories of transportation and logistics; construction and building technology; manufacturing and engineering technology; information and communication technology; creative arts and fashion; and social and personal services.

Around 150,000 people from all over the world came to watch more than 1000 highly skilled young people from over 60 countries prove their trade and technical skills.  Bringing these numbers close to home, as a comparison, 100,000 people attended the 2011 Rugby World Cup. 

Competitors must be the best in their categories at a regional then national level in order to become part of the Kiwi international team, known as the ‘Tool Blacks'. Michael West was part of the 13 strong Tool Blacks team that competed across 13 trade categories at this globally renowned competition, held every two years.

In preparation, Michael undertook an intensive training programme, honing his skills at aircraft electrical wiring fabrication and fault finding from scratch.  Usually based at the RNZAF Whenuapai base he spent time in Christchurch familiarising with the type of helicopter he would be tested on in Germany, and then underwent more intensive training at the Air New Zealand Training School in Auckland, followed by trial competing. 

From 2-7 July, Michael was in competition mode.  With a gruelling schedule, there was no downtime, despite the 36 hours of travel from New Zealand to Germany that had been his most recent reality.  In his category he was judged on the following activities: sheet metal assembly as per a competition supplied drawing, use of rigging, daily visual inspection of a helicopter prior to flight; removal and installation of a simulator component; blending a compressor blade; hot section inspection of a gas turbine using a boroscope and fabricating a wire loom and troubleshooting an electrical wiring defect - all very complicated.

RNZAF and ServiceIQ equally backed Michael’s costs for travelling and competing at WorldSkills in Germany.  Putting in the long hours of training and competing at an international level is pressure enough, and both organisations know the importance of showing the world that New Zealand training is right up there with the best.

"We were pleased to support Michael, and the Tool Blacks, and thrilled with his silver medal success - he and the team did New Zealand proud," says ServiceIQ Chief Executive, Dean Minchington."

The next WorldSkills International will be held in São Paulo, Brazil in 2015.