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MDX-devised Lab Technician competition is back with a (rigorously controlled) bang

Silver medal for second year biochemistry student Maria Pop, as WorldSkills UK charity honours two MDX academics

Students wearing white coats in a science lab for the final of the WorldSkills UK Laboratory Technician competitionSecond year Biochemistry student Maria Pop has won Silver in the finals of the WorldSkills UK Lab Technician competition, an event developed by MDX in partnership with WorldSkills.

The competition returned this year with the highest number of registered entries to date. Broadcaster Steph McGovern announced winners in all 63 WorldSkills disciplines from Plastering to Aeronautical Engineering in a special event live from her Packed Lunch studio last Friday, following finals held at 22 venues around the country. Manchester University hosted the Lab Technician category, which tests the highest standards of accuracy and professionalism in a laboratory setting.

Close up picture of Maria Pop, a young white woman with blonde hair wearing a red T-shirt and a lanyard, and is smilingMaria said the competition had been an "outstanding experience" and described overcoming nerves in the earlier stages to become "a lot more confident in my abilities and knowledge" by the end.

"I have learned new skills and techniques, and perhaps most importantly for me, learned to adapt when things inevitably go wrong" she said. "Having participated in this now, I encourage students to do the same, as they have nothing to lose, but a lot to win".

She thanked her lecturers for their support, and said that at present she is thinking about going into research or teaching after she graduates.

Lead for the event, MDX Senior Lecturer in Bioscience and Biomedical Science Dr Dirk Wildeboer, said he had been pleased by the “growth and interest” in the competition, which came despite the challenges of having to run a first round online. Representatives from the Royal Society of Chemistry and Science Council visited the finals and are keen to support the competition, helping forge more links to industry. Dirk, who is also Lab Technician training manager for the WorldSkills UK squad, and expert for the next cycle of WorldSkills International competitions in this category, hopes the national event broadens further both in terms of geographic reach around the country and the backgrounds of entrants.

WorldSkills UK logo, featuring swooping stripes in the colours of the Olympic FlagMDX organised two other WorldSkills UK events, Automation and Mechatronics, with finals held at the newly-opened Black Country and Marches Institute of Technology with support from industry sponsor, training provider Festo. Meanwhile a new WorldSkills international competition - Industry 4.0, testing skills in factory automation – has MDX alumnus and Festo employee Marcin Regulski as Team UK training manager.

Last month, two MDX academics were among 12 people awarded Certificates of Merit by WorldSkills UK in recognition of their strong commitment to the competitions and WorldSkills skills excellence movement.

Head of Design Engineering and Mathematics Professor Mehmet Karamanoglu, who has been organising national competitions for WorldSkills UK since 2008, and Visiting Lecturer Calum Knott, a Senior Applications Engineer at Festo and WorldSkills UK international training manager for Mechatronics, received the honours.

Mehmet said the Certificate came as a complete surprise and was "a real humbling experience".

Portrait of Calum Knott, a youngish white man with a brown goatee-style beard and moustache and brown hairMDX Visiting Lecturer and Senior Applications Engineer at Festo, Calum Knott

Of Calum and Marcin’s professional journeys, he said: "It is fantastic and at the same time very rewarding to see our graduates holding such prominent positions in industry, helping drive up standards in such sought after skills essential for the economic growth of the country”.

Deputy Chief Executive Officer of WorldSkills UK Ben Blackledge said: “After a year without competitions due to the pandemic it was really encouraging to see so many people competing in the qualifying rounds. We are really excited to be taking the show on the road this year with finals hosted across the UK. I want to offer my congratulations to all those that took part".

WorldSkills UK says the skills competitions have a profound impact on those taking part, with 90 per cent of previous entrants saying their career progression improved as a result, while 86 per cent said the competitions boosted their personal and employability skills.

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