Students at the University of South Wales (USW) have been successful in the WorldSkills UK competition.
Having taken part in the competition – widely known as the ‘skills olympics’ - during November, teams from the cyber and forensics departments at USW discovered last Friday where they had been placed in the contest, in a live broadcast hosted by Channel 4 and former BBC TV presenter Steph McGovern.
The WorldSkills events aim to improve the prestige of apprenticeships and technical education, and inspire more young people to consider these as career routes. The competitions are designed by industry experts and are intended to enhance practical skills and knowledge, taught on courses through assessment of an individual’s employability attributes against criteria in a competitive, timed environment.
More than 400 competitors took part in the events, with more than 60 finals held at 21 venues across the UK.
Eight USW students and graduates took part in the competition, working as four teams of two to battle it out for Gold, Silver, and Bronze Awards. The contest was held at New College Lanarkshire in Motherwell, Scotland. Four of the five competing teams were from USW.
In the cyber category, Max Clarke, 19, and Oskar Werys, 20, who are both second-year Applied Cyber Security students at the USW-based National Cyber Security Academy (NCSA), took Bronze.
During the competition, the teams had to perform security configuration and then take part in a CTF - a cyber-focused Capture the Flag challenge where flags or tokens are hidden on a system and the students have to hack their way in to find them. They then enter their token, usually a code, and, if it's correct, they get points for it.
Elaine Haigh, a Lecturer in Cyber Security at the NCSA, who supported the students though the WorldSkills process, said: “Practical skills are an important element of our delivery on Applied Cyber Security, and taking part in WorldSkills has helped the students and graduates to hone these skills and showcase their talents to current and future employers.
“We were delighted that Max and Oskar were able to celebrate winning the Bronze award, recognition that will further highlight the leading role we at USW play in developing the next generation of cyber experts.
“That being said, all the competitors deserve recognition for the hard work they have put in to the WorldSkills journey, and for highlighting how the competition can help them showcase and develop their expertise.”
USW graduate Kyle Woodward, who studied Applied Cyber Security at the NCSA, represented the UK in the WorldSkills Competition in Kazan, Russia, in 2019, and supported the current students as they prepared for the contest.
Kyle, who now works for company Forsite, said: “By putting myself forward and competing in the WorldSkills Cybersecurity competition, I gained valuable skills, knowledge and confidence to boost my career.
“The WorldSkills competitions provide learners the opportunity to learn new skills, hone their existing ones and to become more confident in themselves and their knowledge. It is an invaluable opportunity that every student should have the chance to take.”
The USW cyber students and graduates who took part in WorldSkills UK were:
Sam, Henry, Arron and Tom were all Highly Commended. Aaron, Thomas, Sam, Savva, and Sam all registered as competitors in the cancelled 2020 WorldSkills competition.
Two forensic sciences students at USW won awards in the WorldSkills UK competition.
Lauren Woolford, who is studying for a degree in Forensicinvestigation, took the Silver, while Paris Williams, who is Studying for a Masters in Analytical and Forensic Science, after completing a degree in Forensic Investigation, took Bronze
In the competition, which was held the University of Manchester, the competitors had to examine crime scenes and evidence, assist in the apprehension of offenders, provide factual evidence on circumstances, and investigate deliberate and accidental incidents, while maintaining the highest of standards, to ensure that the guilty are prosecuted.
Hannah Minton, Lecturer in Forensic Science at USW who guided the team through the WorldSkills process, said: “The competition has been designed to reflect the role of crime scene investigators and managers and forensic scientists within laboratories who process evidence found at sites of interest to investigations.
“The competitors are tested against a range of professional skills from the crime scene and the laboratory, including analytical techniques, quantitative and qualitative testing, and search, recovery and specialist skills investigators must use.
“The competition tests these skills, and those of teamwork and ability to work alone, time management, communication, and written work, which will be key for all the competitors when they start roles in their chosen career.
“We are delighted that two of our students were winners in the contest.”
After winning the Silver, Lauren, who’s from Porth in Rhondda Cynon Taf, said: “I think this will give me more experience in both the crime scene and laboratory, and it will also enhance my forensic skills.
“I think it will help me to see my strengths and weaknesses going forward and it will show me what I need to improve on to be the best version of myself.
“It could potentially point me in the direction of what career path I want to take and what field I would like to specialise in.”
Bronze winner Paris, who’s from Neath, added: “At the competition the judges are people who have a career in the industry, By meeting them and making connections it is a great way to get a foot in the door of the forensics industry.”
Also taking part in the competition were Holly Ashley, who was Highly Commended, from Shropshire, who is studying Forensic Investigation at USW; and Johanna Mahe, from Bavaria in Germany, who graduated earlier this year from USW with a 2.1 degree in Forensic Science with Criminology.