Apprentice advice: getting to grips with the basics
This time of year is usually the start of a flurry of activity for the UK’s apprentice decorators, who would be gearing up for – or have just completed – a gruelling regional heat of the Apprentice Decorator of the Year competition.
But with students working from home and social distancing rules in place, most apprentice competitions are on pause for the foreseeable future. However, that’s no reason why they can’t continue to hone their skills!
WorldSkills UK Training Manager, Mike Swan, shares his pro tips to help apprentice decorators ensure their skills stay sharp ready for when competitions get underway again.
Time and tidiness
When approaching a competition, one of the first things we do is go back to basics. For me, that means developing good time management skills and getting used to working in a tidy and efficient manner.
Keeping your work area tidy, knowing where your tools, material and equipment are at all times, will make you work more effectively in the time available to you. In a competition setting, saving valuable seconds can mean more points on the score-sheet – and in real life, you’ll quickly find that time equals money, so it’s a good skill to take forward into later life too!
Saving a couple of seconds by ensuring you have what you need close to hand and being well organised might not seem like much, but when seconds are saved multiple times over a three day competition, it buys you significant extra time to perfect the project. It’s also a sign of professionalism, and will stand you in good stead with future employers.
An area that we always encourage competitors in the WorldSkills squad to work on is drawing skills and working with basic, common shapes.
I believe that once you have mastered the art of painting circles, straight lines, and triangles, you can complete pretty much any shape that you might come across in a competition like the Apprentice Decorator of the Year.
Take last year’s final as an example – it featured a series of curved lines (part of a circle), a can of paint (a combination of straight lines and circles), and the number 40 (a triangle and a circle). Any apprentice who had practiced these shapes would have a distinct advantage going into the final.
Work with these shapes using different techniques, for example, thinning the consistency of the paint to prevent fat edges, speed up drying time and provide the appropriate flow levels. Experiment with different brushes and rulers to create straight lines and triangle points, and try to get a finished edge like you would if you were using masking tape.
The main point I would make to new competitors is: be as prepared as possible, do the research, find out about previous events and techniques that always come up. Ask questions about the competition, but every year is different so expect the unexpected!
Above all, practice over and over: it takes 10,000 hours to become the best at any skill, and at the moment, time is definitely on your side so be sure to make the most of it.