News & Events

Pembrokeshire College Welding and Plating Apprentices are set to raise the bar at the WorldSkills UK Live and Skills Wales Competition Finals.

The apprentices, who are currently based at Rhyal Engineering in Milford Haven, have been getting competition ready in time for November 2019 and February 2020. Aydan Whatling and Jay Blair are set to compete at the WorldSkills UK Live Final at the NEC from 21st to 23rd November 2019.


Aydan secured a place in the Construction Metalwork category at the Worlskills UK Live Finals after being awarded first place in the regional heat which was held in Coleg Cambria back in June. His task was to fabricate a windmill from a carbon steel plate, which consisted of working through an engineer’s drawing, incorporating pattern development, shaping and forming of materials using a range of mechanical techniques and oxy fuel cutting equipment.


Aydan explained, “There is a lot of hard work and preparation time gone into getting ready for these competitions but it so worth it! It’s allowed me to develop a whole new set of skills ready for industry but most importantly I have really enjoyed the experience!”


At the WorldSkills UK Finals Aydan will have new criteria and drawings to work to, where he will have to combine all of his skills to produce the fabrication piece which will be revealed on the day of the competition.


Apprentice Jay Blair, will be joining his comrade at the WorldSkills UK Live, however Jay is set to compete in the Advanced Welding category. A former Bronze medallist at last year’s final, Jay is using the competition to further improve his skills. Jay came third in his regional heat, competing against other Welsh Colleges and the Royal Engineers at NPTC in June which involved Jay producing high quality welds in carbon steel, aluminium and stainless steel.


Jay said, “I am looking forward to this competition, I really like a challenge. These competitions are more than just about competing to be the best, it’s about improving your skills and learning how to cope in problematic situations. These competitions have been useful for when I am in the workplace and therefore I would recommend any young person to take part if they have the opportunity. It has vastly improved my confidence and skill set.”


Jay’s younger brother, Joel Blair is following in his footsteps and set to compete in the Skills Competition Wales Final in Advanced Welding in February 2020 at Neath College. Joel took part at in an in-house heat at MITEC in October where he gained first place with exceptionally high scores. He had to produce welds in MMA, TIG and MAG welding processes.  Working under pressure and following a specific welding criteria is critical in preparing the students to achieve the scores needed to gain a place in the final.


Joel explained how excited he was, “I am so excited to get this competition underway. Getting ready for next year has already vastly improved my ability to work under pressure and manage my time more efficiently. Both Pembrokeshire College and Rhyal Engineering have been an excellent support to us.”


All three students completed their Level 3 Diplomas in Welding and Plating last year at the College.


Jo Bradshaw Lecturer at Pembrokeshire College commented, “Skills competitions are a fantastic platform for apprentices to showcase their skills and vocational competency. These prestigious events inspire all of the competitors to strive for excellence. South Wales is one of the highest scoring regions within the UK for Advanced Welding, that makes me extremely proud of each of the competitors, as I know how much extra work and time they put into training for these events. They should be hugely proud of being the best apprentices in Wales and in the top 10 within the UK! I would also like to thank Rhyal Engineering and the other local employers who generously support these competitions year on year. Pembrokeshire College have 22 competitors competing at the NEC WorldSkills UK Live in November and I wish each of them every success in their final event.”


Managing Director of Rhyal Engineering, Bob Thomson said; “It has long been recognised within the UK Mechanical Engineering and Construction industry that we have a serious skills shortage and it is the duty of all responsible employers to pass on the inherent skills of their older employees to the younger generation coming through. It is also widely acknowledged that the people we employ are undoubtedly the most valuable commodity of any business and if we want them to perform at the highest level for themselves and their employers, then we must provide them with the best tools, training and opportunities to allow them to fulfil their potential. When Rhyal Engineering was formed in 1998, the reality that most of our workforce were well on their way to retirement age was a ticking time bomb that if left unchecked could have a seriously negative effect upon the future success of the company. Therefore, in view of this, we started an apprenticeship scheme in 2004 where all of our trainees are put through a structured, recognised and approved ECITB apprenticeship scheme which is mainly completed within our local fabrication and welding workshops, affiliated local training facilities e.g. Mitec and Pembrokeshire College, together with some site experience as necessary.  We believe that this provides the best range of environments for the young individuals to develop and fine tune their skills and as an established mechanical contractor and training provider, we are extremely proud to say we have now successfully trained 32 boilermaker plater/erector/welder/pipefitter apprentices to date. Most of these young individuals are already highly skilled tradesmen in their own right and earning skilled wages at the higher end of the pay scale. It is also apparent that most of these valuable operatives are still employed by Rhyal Engineering and are very much key members of our work force, with some having already progressed on to the management team.


“However, where we as a management team get the most satisfaction from, is actually working with some fantastic young individuals and being able to experience their journey from the initial introduction to our industry and onto the skilled and confident trades personnel that they have finally aspired to. This is very much demonstrated by the outstanding performance of Aydan, Jay and Joel.”


“There is no doubt that all three have excelled in everything that we have given them and are an absolute credit to themselves, their mentors and Rhyal Engineering and deserve all the plaudits that they have rightfully received. Their achievements to date are a clear demonstration that the younger generation of today are not work shy at all, but evidently have all of the right ingredients to prosper if we just give them the right opportunities to do so. Well done to all of you, you are a great advert for your generation.”


Both Pembrokeshire College and Rhyal Engineering are looking forward to seeing how the boys perform at their competitions this week.