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Medal your Potential

I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands and creating something where there was nothing. To have a tangible piece of work which was mine. When I was still at school I liked the challenge of trying new methods and tools to develop and change my “work” – it was just a hobby, mucking around, but I loved it.

This passion grew within me up until my last two years in high school where I got the opportunity to attend vocational training classes in my field. It was new and exciting to be finally learning in a more structured way about something I had been interested in all my life and know that this is where I wanted to be.

It was a challenge to see my friends off to university and many of them thought I was wasting my time in pursuing skills. But I decided to follow my dream and enrolled in a vocational school.

Nothing beats doing something you love. I enjoyed every bit of it. It’s so much fun learning a new skill and meeting people who love it too.

I started to look for opportunities to advance my skills.

My friend entered the local competition; I was intrigued by the process and made up my mind that I would participate next time around. With the encouragement of my teachers, friends and family I got myself ready for the National Skills Competition.

The competition was intense; lights, cameras, lots of people – there was a lot happening. It was hard work but it paid off.

The closing ceremony was a nerve racking experience for me, I was so anxious to hear the results.

I got the gold medal! The feeling was awesome. There was also an award for top competitor in my skill which I also won. I can still see myself running onto the stage … I will never forget that moment.

Highlights of the competition aired on national television. Everyone started talking about it. That was my first taste of fame and it felt good.

But it didn’t stop there. Now I was one of the few people selected to go to the WorldSkills Competition, half a world away. I had to train like never before. With the support of everyone around, I threw myself into training as hard as possible for my world debut.

The WorldSkills Competition was like living a dream, I felt like a celebrity dressed in my uniform, walking across stage with flags waving wildly. With four days of competition it was tiring, challenging and extreme. I worked harder than ever and just hoped that my personal best was enough.

The Closing Ceremony was incredible. With the spotlight on the podium, I knew as soon as I saw it, I wanted to be there and take home a medal for my country.

I waited anxiously as all the skills were called and saw my team celebrate each other’s successes and console those that didn’t make the podium.

Then my skill was announced, my eyes were glued to the screen, my ears heard only the announcer, my hands grabbed my teammates, and I waited. Bronze … Silver … Gold … WOW! They just called my name for Gold.

People were throwing the flag over my shoulders and hugging me. I ran up and jumped up on the podium this time knowing I was the best in the world, how cool is that! There were flashes everywhere and I saw my team leader beaming up at me with tears in her eyes, then I knew it was real, I did it!

Now I get to teach others how they can reach for their full WorldSkills potential. I am teaching others how to broaden their skills not only in my field but also in other areas such as beauty therapy, web design, floristry, autobody repair, fashion technology, just to name a few. I work with national competitors on visualisation exercises and enhancing the finer details of their skill. It is rewarding to still be involved in the WorldSkills movement and help future Champions on their own WorldSkills journey. Who knows, maybe I’ll try to become an Expert next, stay tuned…

That’s my story. What’s yours?

3 Comments to “Medal your Potential”

Alia Johneice 25 October 2010 at 12:34 am #

Steph…..I’m proud of you!!!

Jane Stokie WS 26 October 2010 at 1:17 am #

Hi Steph,

That sounds similar to my own journey.

I grew up around my grandmother who was a dressmaker and I was always creating things in her sewing room. From an early age I was destined to do something creative.

My older brother started an apprenticeship in Cooking and was winning every award he entered. It got me thinking and I secretly aspired to be like him, in fact I probably secretly aspired to be better than him. I too started an apprenticeship in Graphic Design. After first year I was awarded top apprentice. That gave me the sweet taste of success.

The following years I continued to be successful and then a teacher at my college asked me to enter into WorldSkills. At that stage I had no idea what I was in for but I entered anyway. I won my regional competition and went onto the National which I also won. I think realisation hit me when I was announced as part of the national team to represent Australia.

I spent 18 months training hard on my skills, learning new ones and been mentored on things such as handling pressure and relaxation. Our international competition was in Australia so we got to travel to Chinese Tapei to their national competition. That was a terrific experinec but made me realise that I had so much more work to do if I wanted to do well at the international.

I had a very supportive employer at the time who allowed me a day a week to train. My expert was also very dedicated giving up much of his own time to train me. I did specialised courses on skills I needed to improve in.

The the competition came. I remember each team been announced. We were the Host team so we came out last. I remember running across the stage waving to the audience. I will never forget that adrenaline hit.

The four days of competition are somewhat of a blur now but I do remember exactly were my workstation was and how it was set up. I also remember that the teacher from college who had got me into WorldSkills came and watched every day. He brought his camping chair along and sat nearby watching. His supportive smile every now and then got me through those tough hours and days.

That feeling on the last day when I had completed my final module was one of relief but also one that I will be forever proud of. I had represented my country in something I was good at. I held my head high and knew I had done my absolute best. I was an opportunity that not many people get.

The award ceremony came, I remember where we were sitting in the stand waiting for the result to be read out. My skill came – bronze, silver, gold. Unfortunely my nameas not one of them but I found out afterwards that I had came fourth. That was a very proud moment.

Since then my involvement with WorldSkills has opened so many doors. After the Competition I won an overseas scholarship and landed a terrific new job. I then moved to a regional town where the local daily newspaper found out on the grapevine that I was in town. I soon had an interview and a great new job. I worked my way up in that company eventually as production manager.

In my “spare” time I became involved in WorldSkills as a regional and national project designer and judge. I also became an international Expert, Deputy Chief Expert and Chief Expert at 5 competitions. I was also an Expert Team Leader and Assistant Techncial Delegate for Australia. Today I am the Technical Director for WorldSkills International.

In amongst all that activity in my career I had 2 children, who themselves now are starting their own career journeys. They both have the same passion for success in their careers as I had at that stage in my life.

You know Steph, you can be anything you want to be as long as you have the passion and will. I encourage others to follow their heart and their dreams and give it their best shot.

Laurent Thibault 29 October 2010 at 5:00 pm #

Thanks for sharing your story Jane. It is interesting that although our paths have crossed briefly many times at WorldSkills events, I am only now learning something a bit more personal about you through Facebook. I guess that is exactly what this new technology is intended to do.
I can now also see why you are so passionate about WorldSkills and why you are so respected among your peers in the WorldSkills technical family. You have the credbility of having lived all dimensions of the WorldSkills experience from the edges of the big Worldskills network in a local regions back in Australia all the way to inner workings that make the international competitions such a high quality amazing event.
I could already see at the recent General Assembly meetings in Jamaica that your continuing dedication will make the WSLondon2011 competitions even better than Calgary in 2009.
Keep up the good work. You are making a real difference in the lives of a very large number of young people.