For the 5th year in a row a Carpentry and Joinery student at South West College Omagh Campus has taken first place at the Northern Ireland SkillBuild Finals. Dean O’Neill, from Dromore, a former St John’s High School student, clinched the top accolade following a two day competition at Belfast Metropolitan College’s Castlereagh Campus. Dean is currently studying in his second year of a NVQ Level 2 Carpentry & Joinery course, specialising in Site Carpentry.
An integral part of Dean’s course is his on-site practical training through his employer placement. Dean is employed by Enhanced Joinery Fintona said “I would like to thank my employer Christopher McGirr for his encouragement and support throughout the competition stages”.
Dean added; “The competition was a fantastic experience. It was a lot of pressure, but I never would have believed that I could have achieved this when I started out on this course. The support of the College, especially Tony McGartland, my Lecturer, has been tremendous. Tony is always willing to take time to help me practice and explain problems I might be facing. Nothing was ever too much trouble for him. He is so dedicated to all the students in his classes; it made it easy getting prepared for the competition much easier”.
Tony McGartland has been teaching Carpentry and Joinery at South West College for 12 years. Tony spoke of his delight at the on-going success for his trade at competition level; “I am so pleased that the College has secured this trophy for the 5th year in a row. The competition is tough, it tests the traditional skills of geometry that are applied to carpentry which involves drawing the task first on plan and using geometry to project roof timbers on the drawing board to show their true shape before marking out and cutting. It is very specialised and it takes great skill to achieve first under competition pressure. We have retained the title since 2011 when Phillip Glasgow won the award, followed by Bryan McGurk for three years in a row and now Dean, I couldn’t be prouder”.
A lot of the success that South West College has had in competitions in the UK, Europe and at World level has been because of the lecturer’s commitment to the competition process and the additional training it requires. Tony has been involved in training competitors for Carpentry competitions all over the UK, and both Stuttgart and Leipzig, Germany for European and World competitions. Last year Tony worked as assistant trainer to the World Chief Carpentry expert in preparing the UK team for this year’s World Skills final in Brazil.
Tony has even worked with German trainer and expert Bernd Kuppers on the publication of a new book on complex carpentry technique and enjoys networking with Carpentry trainers in Hungary, Germany, Denmark, Austria, Japan and the USA to exchange drawings and techniques. This has been very influential to the trainees preparing for competition as they have access to international knowledge of the most up to date carpentry techniques.
Tony added; “I would appeal to school leavers and parents who are faced with making choices this year regarding their future. The construction industry is crying out for young people to train as apprentices to fill the gap in a skills shortage. South West College have a long list of employers willing to take on apprentices this year and get involved in many major buildings projects in the Omagh area. If anyone is considering Site Carpentry as a trade not only will they have the opportunity to work with some of the best construction companies in the area but they will have the opportunity to take part in these competitions which go a long way in giving young people the necessary skills to becoming the top tradesmen in their field.’