Piece prize

Milling and turning finalists will show off their skills in a drive to encourage the pursuit of excellence, writes HELEN BEASLEY

Throughout the week of MACH 2000, while the visitors to the show are touring the halls and exhibition stands, six young machinists will be competing for a chance to go to the Skill Olympics in Seoul, South Korea in September 2001.

The national finals of the UK CNC Milling and Turning Skills competition will take place at the show. The competition is an initiative to raise the level of skills within UK manufacturing. Three finalists from each of the fields of milling and turning will be required to programme and machine a workpiece to specific detailed requirements.

Gregor Macdonald, executive director at Metcom, the Mechanical and Metal Trades Confederation, says the finalists will be working under strict international competition rules.

`They will carry out the 22-hour task over four days, which will comprise reading a drawing, programming the machine, selecting the materials, selecting the tooling and making the piece,’ he says.

The competition has been organised by the Machine Tool Technologies Association, METCOM, and the Engineering and Marine Training Authority with the support of UK Skills, the standard-setting body for skills competitions in the UK.

Macdonald says the finalists were selected through a nationwide competition, in which each entrant was required to complete a test piece on their work premises, within a given timescale of between 15-20 hours. This had to be completed, unsupervised, on their own equipment, and was then assessed. The judges were chosen from the machine tool industry on the basis of their knowledge and experience in the field.

The winners will be announced by Malcolm Wicks, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Education and Employment at a presentation luncheon on Friday 14 April. Both winners will be presented with a trophy, and each competitor will also receive a cheque and a certificate.

Hillary Jennings, head of operations and development at UK Skills, says the Skill Olympics are a huge international event. `The competition takes place every two years in one of the 30-plus member countries of the World Skills Organisation. We take a team which is selected from national events like the CNC Milling and Turning competition,’ she says.

At the 1999 event in Montreal, Matthew Wills, a microwave radio frequency technician from Marconi, won a bronze medal in the Electronic Applications category. The competition involved kit-build assembly, fault finding on electronic equipment and projects such as reverse engineering. Wills says winning the award has won him the respect of his colleagues.

Entrants must be 22 years or younger, and deemed suitable of representing their country on the international stage. As with the CNC Milling and Turning competition, the entrants compete for 22 hours over a four-day period.

The competition covers 40 different trades, from engineering to hairdressing, and each country sends a national technical expert along with their competitors, to form an international adjudication panel.

`It’s not a test of speed, it’s a test of excellence,’ Jennings says.



Mark Norman 18,is undertaking a modern apprenticeship in machining and CNC machining at Corus Process Engineering in Workington. Having achieved three of the four stages of his assessment, he is working towards his Higher National Certificate in mechanical and production engineering and an NVQ Level 3 in machining and CNC machining.

Ian Caldicott 20, is a skilled toolmaker at Birmingham-based Delcam UK Tooling Services, a division of Delcam UK, which develops CAD/CAM software for the manufacturing industry. Caldicott completed an apprenticeship, and now works on high-speed machining at the company.

Adam Fox 19, completed a three-year modern apprenticeship in engineering at MBM Technology in Portslade, East Sussex in September. Fox works in the weapons carriage interface equipment division of the aerospace equipment manufacturing company.


James Butcher 19, is a CNC turning apprentice with Cambridge-based Shearline Precision Engineering, a subcontract engineering company. Butcher is one of 10 apprentices with the company, and has recently completed a day release City and Guilds in mechanical engineering. He has now moved on to study for an NVQ Level 3 in CNC turning.

Steven Moir 19, is a fourth year modern apprentice with Pacson, based in Carnoustie, Scotland. Pacson, which designs and manufactures surface and sub-sea valves and pressure control products, entered Moir for the competition when organisers were conducting a nationwide search.

Mark Smith 19, is a CNC apprentice in the machining department of Yamazaki Machinery UK, in Worcestershire. As part of his apprenticeship he has worked for six month periods within various areas of the company, and is working on his turning skills.