Natalee Hibbins, Australia's representative in the jewellery category of the 41st WorldSkills International Competition
Young jeweller enters global 'Skills Olympics'
By Sonia Nair
Perth-based apprentice jeweller Natalee Hibbins is set to represent Australia in the prestigious 41st WorldSkills International Competition.
Organised every other year by WorldSkills International, the competition is hailed as the ‘Skills Olympics’. It is held to raise the international standards of apprenticeships and traineeships in vocations such as jewellery manufacturing, with competitors vying for gold, silver and bronze medals.
With a cut-off age of 22 for participants, the competition is a discovery platform for young, breakthrough talent. This year the event will be held in London on October 5 to 8.
Australia’s representative on the competition’s judging panel, Sydney-based Darren May, said the competition is a one-of-a-kind. “This is the only competition in the world interested in how a jeweller can make a piece of jewellery. It concentrates on the manufacturing part; a part that is enormously overlooked for design,” he said.
“The competition is designed to test a competitor’s ability to make a piece of jewellery at the highest level, with all competitors having to make the same project in the same time frame with an allotted amount of gold,” May added.
The 20-year-old Hibbins is set to compete against 17 other shortlisted participants from across the globe in the jewellery category. Each competitor will be tasked with constructing a piece of jewellery in 22 hours across four days.
Hibbins works as an apprentice with Soklich & Co in Maddington, Western Australia, and trains at the Central Institute of Technology in Perth. She was selected to represent Australia in the jewellery category after winning regional and national WorldSkills competitions.
Winning the international WorldSkills competition is next on Hibbins’ wish list.
“I hope to improve in all my skills and become a top-class qualified jeweller. I aspire to win the 2011 International WorldSkills competition and I will train hard to do so,” she said.
To prepare, she has started a vigorous training schedule under the tutelage of local mentor Peter Keep and Australia’s representative on the competition’s judging panel, Sydney-based Darren May.
“Training involves intensive seven day-long stints working through proposed projects and is crucial to my preparation as May is Australia’s representative on the judging panel,” Hibbins said.
“There are five projects that I have to practise making and one of those five will be the actual piece selected to be made in London for the competition,” she added.
Hibbins’ travel and training costs are being sponsored by the JAA and WorldSkills Australia.
She will be accompanied by 28 other Australians, each competing in different categories under the banner of the ‘Skillaroos’. This year the team hopes to improve on Australia’s current rank of fifth in the world.
This year’s 41st WorldSkills International Competition will play host to 900 international competitors from 50 different countries.
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