East Durham College media students take silver at the WorldSkills UK Finals

A group of highly talented East Durham College media students proved they were amongst the very best in the country after they won silver medals at the WorldSkills UK National Finals 2023 in Manchester.

Naomi Park-Hanson, Jake Venners, Matthew Thompson and Willem Fisk-Nicholson (pictured L to R) came second out of an astonishing 440 other student groups that took part in the competition, from across the UK, including the nine other teams that competed in the finals.

Naomi said: “Competing at the WorldSkills finals was a transformative experience. It pushed us beyond our limits, developing our collaboration, creativity and communication skills to new heights.”

Willem added: “Being part of WorldSkills was amazing; it felt like a great taste of what the industry that I want to be a part of has to offer. The skills we developed and the friendships made whilst taking part are things I will be taking with me from now on.”

The students’ journey to the finals started back in 2022 when their lecturers in the College’s Creative Industries Department decided to prepare and support their students in having a tilt at the prestigious national competition. The staff implemented new ‘pressure tests’ into their lessons, each time changing the subjects and criteria to focus on improving the media students’ skills.

“It was fantastic, the organised practical pressure tests really helped the learners develop their skills and work in a realistic media environment. Our students absolutely loved and thrived on the challenge!” remarked Suzi Martin, Media Course Leader at EDC.

“Across the 2022/23 academic year, the teaching team continued to put the students through these pressure tests and, on the back of them, we had a special group of students ready to be put forward for our first time ever entry into the media category at the WorldSkills Competition.

“That’s when the really hard work began for the group, as the student team planned and prepared their submission, coming into sessions outside of their usual timetable to get it done in time and to the standard they wanted. I was so proud of their dedication.” Suzi added.

Initially, the team competed at the WorldSkills North East Regional heats, where judges selected them to go forward to the National Finals. In its own right, this was a massive achievement.

So, the EDC team then spent an exciting and challenging week in Manchester, at the finals, creating media production to a specific brief set by current media industry professionals from a broad range of experience including Netflix and the BBC.

Amanda Gregory, Programme Area Lead for Creative Industries at the College, was also delighted with the teams’ success. Amanda said: “The judges at the competition were very impressed with our team and said our learners were hugely creative, talented and had excellent technical abilities.

“As a department, we have fully implemented WorldSkills Centre Of Excellence Training combined with Suzi’s current vocational experience has benefited not only the team but the entire Creative Industries Department.”

The team received their medals from Edith Bowman, a highly acclaimed radio DJ and television presenter, at the closing awards ceremony – an extremely proud moment for everyone involved.

WorldSkills is an independent charity and a partnership between employers, education and governments. Together, they are using international best practice to raise standards in apprenticeships and technical education so more young people and employers succeed.

The WorldSkills UK competition-based training programmes are designed by industry experts and develop participants’ technical and employability skills, including building resilience, self-confidence and communications skills. OFSTED has also recognised the value of these programmes in their education inspection framework.

Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education Robert Halfon said: “WorldSkills UK not only provides an unparalleled opportunity to hone your skills and climb the ladder of opportunity towards a better and brighter future, but it is also a chance to celebrate and champion vocational courses and the further education sector.”