In July 2011 in Australia, a significant event took place. A humble and very shy female Fijian Painter and Decorator took on experienced trade painters in Australia for the regional WorldSkills competition.
WorldSkills International is a not for profit association that holds competitions at regional, national and international levels in 46 different trades.
The next international competition will be in London from 5-8 October 2011, with hundreds of competitors from over 55 member countries/regions competing for gold across 46 skill areas.
Painters & Decorators in Fiji along with Pacific Coatings (Dulux) were determined that they should send a competitor to a regional competition in Australia as a way of cracking into WorldSkills. This proved to be more of a challenge than first anticipated. Michael Farrugia, a trainer with the Australia-Pacific Technical College (APTC) and a painter and decorator by trade, has vast experience in WorldSkills competitions, convening regional competitions in Australia and mentoring a number of competitors to a national level. Michael started correspondence with the Australia Worldskills committee in 2009 and after many emails and phone calls, progress was achieved in March 2011.
In March 2011 Michael received a phone call from Rai Malisauskas, the Regional Co-ordinator for WorldSkills Queensland. Rai kindly invited two Painters & Decorators from the Pacific in the Brisbane regional competition.
As students were studying with APTC in the vocational area of painting & decorating at Narere FNU/NTPC, a competition was held with peer judges to determine the competitors to go to Australia. APTC's students were from Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji however it was two female students Caroline from Solomon Islands and Ana from Fiji who were selected to represent APTC in the WorldSkills competition in Australia. Unfortunately Caroline was unable to travel at the last minute due to Visa issues.
Dulux Fiji generously funded Ana to go to Australia and APTC supported Michael Farrugia to be a guardian and mentor for Ana while in Australia with strong endorsement coming from James Knynenburg, APTC Fiji country Manager and Barry Peddle APTC CEO.
The competition was very heated with Ana competing against students that had been in the industry for between two to three years in Australia. Some had trained intensely before the competition.
Ana won the hearts of the judges for her gutsy performance and quality work coming very close to third place only missing by a couple of marks. The judges including a respected representative from the Master Painters Association and key consultant for the development of the training standards for painting and decorating George Englert, who were amazed at Ana's skills.
Ana was able to show that we have skilled people in the Pacific that can make us all proud regardless of what our trade is. She clearly demonstrated the quality of APTC programs and that industry supports our Pacific based training.