A 21 year-old from Cardigan has won the Skills Competition Wales final in Construction Metalwork, as part of a Welsh Government-backed initiative to boost skills levels across Wales.

Thomas Davies, who is in his first year of a Welding and Fabrication course at Coleg Sir Gar, competed against five other students from colleges across Wales to win the gold medal.

The finalists all had to complete a series of challenges including welding and fabricating base plates, forming plates and angle bars, all within a set time period. The competitors were then marked on their safe working practice, following correct methods and procedures, skills and accuracy.

Thomas said he was very proud of his achievement.

“I was selected by my lecturer to enter this competition but never expected to win, I have participated in competitions in the past and I really enjoyed showing the judges what I can do. The tasks were quite challenging but I had a great day and I’m looking forward to doing more skills competitions in the future.”

Skills Competition Wales is designed to promote the importance of developing a highly-skilled workforce and aims to boost high level skills in Wales. Supported by the European Social Fund, the Welsh Government is running a total of 32 Skills Competitions in 2014 in a range of sectors, from carpentry and hairdressing to automotive and patisserie.

Thomas will now go forward to represent Coleg Sir Gar in the WorldSkills UK Construction Metalwork Final with the aim of representing Team Wales at this year's Skills Show, and may be eligible to compete for a place in the team that will represent the UK at WorldSkills 2015. The international WorldSkills competition takes place every two years in cities around the globe and is the largest international skills competition.

As Barry Liles, Principal at Coleg Sir Gâr and WorldSkills Champion for Wales, explains, the competitions have a range of benefits, not only for the learners themselves, but also for colleges and employers who get involved.

“WorldSkills UK Competitions inspire young people and adults to be ambitious in their pursuit of skills to the highest level and give learners the chance to compete against the best in their chosen field from across the whole of Wales.

“The colleges and training providers that enter students into the competitions also reap the rewards as they are able to benchmark their performance against other organisations and develop best practice, while the employers who sign up can demonstrate world class skills among their staff.”

Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology, Ken Skates AM, congratulated Thomas on his success.

“Through Skills Competition Wales, we aim to find the nation’s most skilled trainees across many different occupations and sectors.

“Dozens of colleges, Sector Skills Councils and work-based learning providers throughout Wales are already involved in the project but we are keen to encourage more Welsh businesses to take part in and promote this type of skills competition. For employers, the competitions not only help drive up the quality of apprenticeships and vocational education, but also motivate employees to achieve success.

“We have a truly diverse set of skills in Wales and these are all to be celebrated. It takes hard work, determination and a high level of skill to compete against Wales’ most talented apprentices and learners. We wish Thomas and all the other finalists and winners the very best of luck, not only in the next round of the competitions, but also in the careers they choose to go on and follow.”