Talented Billie-Jo accelerated her career at South West College (SWC) after enrolling on a Level 3 Diploma in Light Vehicle Maintenance and Repair (Gold Apprenticeship), which helped forge educational and employment trajectories, opening the way for Billie-Jo to secure a place on the coveted WorldSkills Squad UK team.
From a young age, Billie-Jo from Aughnacloy inspired by her Dad, a Lorry Mechanic, had a keen interest in ‘fixing broken’ things. She loved fixing bikes, go-karts and so forth. Enjoying practical work over theory Billie-Jo left school aged 16. She eagerly began studying a Level 3 Gold Apprenticeship in Light Vehicle Maintenance and Repair at SWC Dungannon Campus as it offered the underpinning knowledge and skillset. She would need aligning with valuable on the job experience without any student debt. She said: “I chose SWC as I wanted to continue my education and gain practical experience, but I also did not want to end up with a huge student debt to pay off, so it was the only logical route to take.”
Billie-Jo gained valuable technical and personal skills at SWC, and her tutors instantly recognised that she had a natural flair. They inspired her to compete at World Skills UK which helps young people develop their skillset through regional, national and international competitions aiming to help young people accelerate and go ‘further - faster’ within their chosen career. Billie-Jo took on the challenge and put her skills to the test competing to secure a place on the Squad Uk team. Billie-Jo was tested on her practical skills, knowledge and abilities in line with industry standards where she triumphed and achieved a sought-after place on the Squad UK team.
Being part of the Squad Uk team has been challenging amidst the pandemic. Still, Billie-Jo has remained focused and is continuing her training remotely for Squad UK developing her skill set and competing to hopefully be selected to represent the UK and compete at the prestigious WorldSkills final in Shanghai in 2022.
“It would be amazing to go to EuroSkills Graz or WorldSkills which will be held in Shanghai, as it’s always referred to as the ‘Skills Olympics’. It would be my biggest achievement to date, which would be very hard to top. My knowledge and skillset have improved and is more in-depth now than I ever would have had before. I’ve learned how to handle being under pressure better and the importance of blocking out background noise to just focus on the task at hand.” Said Billie-Jo.
Billie-Jo’s experience at SWC combined with competing, and on the job, experience allowed her to excel progressing onto a Level 4 in Advanced Automotive Diagnostics Techniques. She says, “I enjoyed all the practical lessons as I would be more of a practical learner than theory. The most significant thing I have learned is that if you want something, you have to work hard for it and not give up. I am currently working for Donnelly group, Northern Irelands largest independent vehicle retailer and SWC helped me achieve this by helping me secure an apprenticeship with them that led to employment after my apprenticeship ended. In the future, I am keen to get more involved and progress within the automotive industry.”
SWC, Automotive Lecturer, Conor McGaughey said: “SWC prides itself on providing apprentices with the knowledge, understanding and competence to work at a high level and has successfully competed at WorldSkills Uk achieving within the top six consecutively for the last seven years. We value our established apprenticeship links with local employers and work collaboratively, helping students develop their skills and mindset paving the way for a successful career within the automotive industry.”
Billie-Jo praised SWC and the apprenticeship programme for helping to accelerate her career and encourages others, particularly females, to consider the prestigious apprenticeship career route as their next step. She says, “I would recommend an apprenticeship at SWC to anyone, as all the tutors are fantastic, they support you and want to see you accomplish your goals. It provides you with more practical experience through job placement, helping future proof your career with the opportunity to gain the same qualifications as University without accumulating student debt. It is the best option to help accelerate your career.”
For further information and advice, please visit: www.swc.ac.uk.