A STUDENT band called The Bluestones from Llanelli has won gold in the Popular Music final of a national skills competition.
Skills Competition Wales is a Welsh Government-backed series of events designed to celebrate vocational skills and create a highly skilled Welsh workforce for the future.
With Olympic athletes training hard for the imminent games in Rio, Laura Mitchell, 17; Katie-Ann Hedge, 16; Quillan Thomas, 18, and 18 year old Thomas Westerholme, are just four of 78 Welsh youngsters who have been perfecting their skills in a bid to win a medal. Across a range of vocations from graphic design to patisserie, these budding skilled champions, like Olympians, may go on to challenge competitors from other nations.
Laura, Katie, Quillan and Thomas, from Coleg Sir Gâr, competed against 25 other students from across Wales. The bands completed against each other by performing two songs on stage in front of a panel of judges. The band said they are thrilled to have won.
Laura said: “We’re really excited to have won, especially against so many other talented musicians. It’s been a real challenge finding time to keep practicing whilst we’re all studying at college, but our tutors encouraged us to form the band and have been really supportive throughout the competition.
“We performed ‘Do Right’ by Peggy Lee and ‘Back to Black’ by Amy Winehouse. It was great fun to perform and winning has given us all a confidence boost to pursue careers in music.”
Skills Competition Wales forms part of the Welsh Government’s Growth and Sustainable Jobs Programme, designed to promote the importance of vocational skills with the aim of boosting the overall skill capabilities and prosperity of Wales.
The campaign, supported by the European Social Fund and the Welsh Government, and run by a network of colleges and work based learning providers, a total of 33 local skills competitions will be taking place between February and April, in a range of sectors from forensic science and car mechanics to web design and nail art.
The band may go forward to represent Coleg Sir Gar in the Popular Music Worldskills UK heat, with the aim of potentially representing Team Wales at this year’s Skills Show in Birmingham in November.
Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology, Julie James AM said: “Year on year the level of talent at Skills Competition Wales keeps on improving. These events encourage healthy competition and are a great way of recognising the fantastic talent that we have in our country.
“Colleges and work-based learning providers across Wales are already involved in the Skills Competition Wales initiative and have played a huge part in organising the heats and finals, but we’re keen to see more Welsh businesses support their talented young employees and encourage them to enter.”
The Deputy Minister added: “It takes a lot of hard work to get to the final round but to win gold is a fantastic achievement. It is clear that all the competitors are extremely passionate and determined to be named the best in Wales.
“I wish The Bluestones and all the other finalists and winners the very best of luck, not only in the next round of the competitions, but also in their future careers.”