Skills competitions play a vital role in recognising talent and driving up quality across industry. We asked Darren Oates, our External Quality Assurer (EQA) for Wales and an experienced competition judge to tell us more.

Darren-Oates“I’ve worked for EAL for four years, both as an EQA specialising in engineering and electrotechnical, and as a Product Specialist. I started my career as an apprentice electrician, which gave me a fantastic grounding in the technical aspects of a job in the electrical industry. After completing my apprenticeship I worked in industry for more than 10 years, before moving on to assessment and lecturing roles at a local college and then to EAL.”

“I’ve been a judge for skills competitions, including SkillELECTRIC and the SPARKS UK Electrical Apprentice of the Year competition, for many years. My mix of expertise and experience across industry and education, and the fact I started out as an apprentice myself, means my skillset is really relevant to the role.”

“Skills competitions are vital, for the students taking part and for their current and future employers. They help to set the bar high for our industry as a whole. They encourage young people to take their skills to another level, measuring themselves against the best of their peers from all over the country. It’s such a good experience for them; it boosts their job prospects, drives up quality and makes them really appreciate the opportunities available in the industry they’ve chosen to work in.”

“I get a real buzz out of seeing competitors, under extreme pressure, producing work of such a high standard. It’s a way of putting something back into an industry that I love. As judges, we have a fantastic opportunity to share and hand down what we’ve learnt. People of my generation got a great grounding in our trade and it’s important we pass on those skills to the next generation. We don’t want to lose them. At the same time, new technology is emerging every day, so there are always new skills to learn and to master.”