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Joe Swift announces the finalists for the APL WorldSkills UK competition

Landscaping students and apprentices from across the nation have taken part in knockout heats over the past few months, run by the APL. The final seven semi-finalists have all competed for their place in the final at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park this week.

The public interest in the competition this year was at an all-time high, with many members of the public requesting coverage on the BBC to enable them to see how the competitors had got on.

The scores from each heat were all of a high standard and the judges and Joe Swift, who came to announce the result to the competitors, felt that they all deserved to go through to the final. Joe said he was impressed with the quality of the gardens and the talent the competitors have shown, especially considering the challenging weather conditions over the event.

Progressing to the NEC for the national final, are:
• Jacob Botting, Myerscough College
• Aaron Byrne, Reaseheath College
• Ross Conquest, Conquest Hard Landscaping
• Josh Dow, SRUC Oatridge
• Jonathan Long, CAFRE
• Shea McFerran, CAFRE
• Christopher Page, Dundee and Angus College

Judge Simon Abbot said during the semi-finals “The guys have all shown amazing skill and dedication this week. Given the weather and the heat, they have all stuck to their plans and adapted accordingly when they needed to. It has been a close run semi-final which makes it more exciting for the final ahead.”

Our semi-finalists were tested on their timber, brickwork and planting over 18 hours to individually build a full 6m x 2m garden, and were marked on the quality of their work and attention to detail by judges Jody Lidgard, Simon Abbott, and Steve Smith.

We spoke to our final seven after announcing the results to see how they were feeling and about the challenges ahead.

Jonathan Long, CAFRE, said “I need to work on my timing more for the final, but I’m ecstatic to be going through to the final! A great end to all the hard work this week!”

Jacob Botting, Myerscough College and Ross Conquest, Conquest Hard Landscaping, said “Really excited, and glad to be doing it inside next time! Looking forward to getting stuck in!”

Josh Dow, SRUC Oatridge, said, “It’s been an exciting week, but a lot of hard word, especially in this heat. The final should be good fun, but going to get some practice in before-hand and improve all round.”

Ryan Love, Josh’s tutor, said of the competition “Having done it before myself it’s been a great experience seeing it through as both competitor and tutor. It’s a great way of encouraging development in the industry and showcasing the work these guys can do.”

The competition was sponsored once again by Marshalls, Makita and J A Jones. We would like to thank them for their on-going support, as the event wouldn’t be possible without them.

Talking to them about the event and why they choose to support the WorldSkills event, Marshalls’ David Jessop said, “Marshalls is delighted to support World Skills once again in 2016. The correct installation and use of all landscaping products is essential if we want to compete with other home improvement. World Skills is a great platform for young people to demonstrate their skills learned either in college or with an employer to the wider public.”

J A Jones’ Mike Jones said, “The calibre of the students here are the type who have the drive and the commitment in the industry to get involved in competitions like this and compete to be the best in the industry. These are the people who will therefore be going on to set up their own companies and be managers further down the line and we want to build a relationship with that kind of person.

They’re also the future of the industry and this is something that should be encouraged. We get a lot of people asking for sponsorship throughout the year, but WorldSkills is one that we want to be able to sponsor year on year for that very reason.”

Roy Hobson from Makita, who supplied all the electrical tools for the competition, said, “Makita has always been supportive of apprenticeships and students as they are the future of the industries, and if they have used these tools now, when they go into the industry themselves they will know the machinery and people in the company already. Through the be-safe course that we offer free of charge we can ensure that they have the knowledge to the equipment correctly and safely through their careers.”

The final of the WorldSkills UK Landscaping competition will once again take place at the Birmingham NEC on 17-19 November.

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