Two golds for team Illawarra at WorldSkills Australia National Championships

WINNING TRIO: WorldSkills Australia National Championships medal winners Samantha Trotter, Matthew Harris and Ryan Hepplewhite with fellow Illawarra team members. Picture: Sylvia Liber.
WINNING TRIO: WorldSkills Australia National Championships medal winners Samantha Trotter, Matthew Harris and Ryan Hepplewhite with fellow Illawarra team members. Picture: Sylvia Liber.

TAFE Wollongong student Ryan Hepplewhite will represent Australia at the Worldskills International in Russia in 2019.

He secured his spot on the Skillaroos team after winning a gold medal in the construction steel work division of the WorldSkills Australia National Championships in Sydney earlier this week.

Fellow TAFE Wollongong student Samantha Trotter, competing in retail baking-pastry, also won a gold medal, but the Mittagong resident won’t be competing in the international event as it is limited to entrants under the age of 23.

Fellow Illawarra team member Matthew Harris also excelled in Australia’s largest vocational education and excellence competition, winning a bronze medal.

More than 400 apprentices and trainees competed in 50 skill areas at the competition.

Mr Hepplewhite, from Wollongong, said while he enjoyed the experience he was glad the competition was over.

“I’ve never been overseas so I’m very much looking forward to going to Russia to represent Australia,” he said.

“This has been a fantastic experience. I have learned so much and I’m a lot better now at all the things I needed to be able to do to be competitive.”

Miss Trotter said her training at work and with her TAFE mentor paid off.

“The time-frame was tight on the first two days,” she said.

“Overall we had to complete about 15 different products and I was happy with most of mine. I highly recommend other people coming through TAFE NSW enter WorldSkills.”

TAFE NSW relieving regional general manager Belinda Mackinnon paid tribute to all the competitors and the army of mentors and support staff that assisted.

“WorldSkills competitions provide TAFE NSW students with amazing, and potentially life-changing, learning opportunities,” she said.

“I am extremely proud of Samantha and Ryan for their incredible achievements but I’m equally proud of all our competitors for stepping outside their comfort zone and representing TAFE NSW with pride.”

While not part of Illawarra’s strong 10-member team, Mark Mancini also medalled at Worldskills.

The year 12 electrotechnology student at Holy Spirit (Bellambi) College won a silver medal.