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WorldSkills Australia 2016 Jewellery champion Jason Nesbitt
WorldSkills Australia 2016 Jewellery champion Jason Nesbitt

Competition crowns national jewellery champion

A recently graduated Perth jewellery apprentice has taken gold at a national skills competition.

Jason Nesbitt was awarded top prize in the Metals and Engineering – Jewellery category of the 2016 WorldSkills Australia National Competition.

The biennial event – described as the ‘Skills Olympics’ – took place at Melbourne Showgrounds from 6 October to 8 October and saw more than 500 Australian trade and skill technicians compete across 60 categories.

Competitors in the jewellery category were asked to create an 18-carat yellow gold item and were judged on skills such as interpretation of design, soldering, surface finish, saw piercing and dimensions.

Melbourne-based Chloe Biddiscombe took the silver medal while Tyrus Shay, based in Sydney, was awarded the bronze.

Intense pressure

Nesbitt, who has worked at Egoli Place of Gold in Perth for more than five years, began his apprenticeship in July 2011 and became a qualified jeweller in July last year.

“I love to challenge myself and push the boundaries to see what I'm capable of,” Nesbitt told Jeweller.

This was Nesbitt’s second entry into the national WorldSkills competition, having also competed in 2014, when he placed fourth and missed out on a podium finish by two points.

The jeweller explained this was what drove him to compete again, adding, “Winning the gold medal this year was an amazing experience”.

“I discovered that I am more capable of handling myself under intense pressure and stress than I ever thought possible,” he commented.

“I definitely came out of the WorldSkills experience with some great memories, a good understanding of how passionate today’s young jewellers are and made some incredible new friendships as well.”

Importance of apprenticeships

Nesbitt’s employer Nicola Whitehorn called the win a “massive achievement” and added, “We are extremely proud of him”.

There has been much discussion over the past few years regarding jewellery apprenticeships and jewellers taking on trainees.

Whitehorn said in a career spanning 36 years, her husband Tony Whitehorn had trained nine apprentices, three of whom still worked in the family business.

She conceded taking on an apprentice was a “huge commitment” and not for everyone as it could be costly in terms of time and money.

“Over the years the government subsidies have dwindled, which makes it less attractive to hire an apprentice,” she commented.

“Valuable skills and knowledge needs to be passed on to the future generations to ensure the continuance of the jewellery manufacturing industry.”

Nesbitt advised young jewellers who were thinking about entering the competition to “give it a crack, there’s nothing to lose!”

“It certainly is an amazing competition to be apart of, and is an excellent way to showcase your skills and promote apprenticeships in Australia,” he added.

Fair atmosphere

Biddiscombe said she decided to enter the WorldSkills competition to challenge herself.

“In the competition you have to complete the competition piece as accurately as possible, in a certain amount of time,” she explained.

“I now feel more confident in my work; that I can work faster and not over-think some things.”

Fellow medallist Shay said the extreme conditions of the competition had helped to "settle" him at his workplace.

“It was quite an experience to be able to travel to Melbourne and compete for my state. The entire atmosphere of the trade fair was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before,” he explained.

Jewellery competition sponsor Pallion, which was awarded a five-year contract in 2015 to produce the Emirates Melbourne Cup, brought the trophy along to the event for visitors to see.

This year’s jewellery finalists will not be eligible to compete at the international WorldSkills competition in Abu Dhabi next year, as they will be above the age limit of 23 at the time of the contest.

WorldSkills Australia 2016 Jewellery silver medallist Chloe Biddiscombe
WorldSkills Australia 2016 Jewellery silver medallist Chloe Biddiscombe
WorldSkills Australia 2016 Jewellery bronze medallist Tyrus Shay
WorldSkills Australia 2016 Jewellery bronze medallist Tyrus Shay

More reading
Jewellery apprentice to take on world stage
Aussie jeweller wins silver medal
Gold for WA jeweller
Young jeweller enters global 'Skills Olympics'


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