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Osian praises college after WorldSkills success

Watch Coleg Menai engineering apprentice Osian Roberts in action following his gold medal in CNC turning at the WorldSkills UK finals

Osian Roberts has praised Coleg Menai after his WorldSkills gold medal triumph.

It’s been a successful year for Osian, who is studying for a Higher National Certificate in General Engineering as part of his apprenticeship with manufacturing firm IAQ.

The 24-year-old won the CNC turning category in the WorldSkills UK finals in Manchester in November.

To qualify for the finals he had to finish in the top five in the UK during regional heats in the summer - having also claimed third place in the Skills Competition Wales earlier in the year.

Osian achieved all this while studying one-day per week alongside his role as a CNC turning centre operator for IAQ in his home town of Caernarfon.

His achievements are all the more impressive given that in his day job he uses completely different software to Autodesk Fusion 360, which is used in the skills competitions.

But he proved adept at using the software following a crash course from lecturer Iwan Roberts at Coleg Menai’s engineering centre in Llangefni, and won UK gold to finish 2023 in style.

Osian said: “Iwan Roberts, my tutor here at Coleg Menai, spoke to us as a group about a Welsh skills competition in CNC Turning.

“He thought, as that’s what I do at work, I’d have a good chance of doing it. It was computer software which I was unfamiliar with, but I thought it was a good opportunity for me to compete and showcase my skills.”

CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control and refers to the broader term for a manufacturing process led by a computer program.

Parts are designed and developed using CAD (Computer-Aided Design). This CAD file is then used to produce a computer program that controls the CNC turning machine, which uses lathes to machine components from various materials such as aluminium, brass, and stainless steel.

In the WorldSkills UK final, Osian was tasked with making an aluminium component to exacting industrial standards. After being given a three-dimensional model of the part he needed to create, Osian had two hours computer-programming time, and two-and-a-half hours to machine the part.

He said: “I feel happy and proud that I won the gold medal - and also surprised!

“The help I got from the tutors here has been great. Iwan Roberts has given me the most support and help throughout the competition, and I would like to thank everyone from IAQ for giving me the opportunity to compete.

“These competitions are obviously great for the CV, but also it’s good to see the level that other college students and apprentices are at, so I can know I’m excelling at what I’m doing at the moment, which I can be proud of.”

Osian has made huge strides since joining IAQ and beginning his studies at Coleg Menai, and plans to continue onto a degree apprenticeship.

He said: “Before starting my apprenticeship I had no previous experience or qualifications to do with engineering. I knew I wanted to do something hands-on and I saw an opportunity for an apprenticeship at my firm, applied, got the job and from there just moved forward.

“My role as an apprentice is with the CNC turning side of the company. Every day I machine between 20 and 50 different parts, and we’re very busy at all times.

“Studying as an apprentice, the additional workload of actually working as well as doing the college work is about managing that balance - not leaving all the college work to one side and just working, or vice-versa. It’s just, do the work and it all comes naturally.”

Asked for his advice for any students thinking of entering skills competitions, Osian said: “Go for it, you have nothing to lose. The experience and skills you will get out of it are great for you.”

You can watch Osian in action and see his full interview here.

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