Billie-Jo showed from a very young age that she was practically-minded. “My dad was a lorry mechanic and I always liked fixing broken bikes, go karts and so on. That’s why I chose to do an apprenticeship in light vehicle automotive, I’ve always preferred practical work over theory.”
The first she heard about WorldSkills UK Competitions was through her tutors at South West College, Omagh Northern Ireland. In 2019 she competed for a place on Squad UK and was selected. “I was so excited, I didn’t expect it.”
Joining Squad UK means she will undergo the skills set and mindset training that WorldSkills UK is renowned for, to be in the running for the chance to join Team UK in competing on the international stage. “It would be amazing to go to EuroSkills Graz, or Worldskills which will be held next 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.”
Billie-Jo has gained a lot from competing so far.
The benefits don’t stop there, “My favourite parts have been meeting a whole lot of other people and realising that it was a massive competition that included a wide variety of other skills and trades.”
Competing is about problem-solving and overcoming barriers but for Billie-Jo coping with the current Coronavirus-19 pandemic has been her biggest challenge so far. “Right now our meetings are online and because I live in the country my WiFi is not reliable. My training manager has to send me anything I’ve missed when my WiFi goes down. I find webinar apps the best thing for training. Also I have been lucky enough to be able to borrow an engine and some special tools so I can keep practising and working on my skills.”
Asked whether competing has benefited her in the workplace Billie-Jo says, “My knowledge of some skills has improved and are more in-depth now than I ever would have had before. Currently I just want to keep working and improving my skills through participating in more competitions to build upon my skills in the workshop.”
Brian Patterson, Aftersales Director from Donnelly Group, which is Northern Ireland’s largest independent vehicle retailer, said: “Billie-Jo’s commitment to continually developing her skills is admirable and she has been a great addition to the team.
“Technology in the automotive industry is everchanging and Billie-Jo has proved she is able to develop and learn as the industry moves on.
“We invest heavily in our team and are delighted to support Billie-Jo as she competes and we wish her the best of luck as she strives for a position in Team UK.”