Refrigeration and air-conditioning graduate Nathan McHugh is not your average tradie. At just 21 years of age, Nathan is now completing his second apprenticeship in electrotechnology and was named as a 2017 Skillaroo for Team Australia.

As an Australian Skillaroo, Nathan has been recognised as a highly skilled tradesperson. He is part of an elite team of young Australians who will compete to represent Australia at the 44th WorldSkills International Competition in Abu Dhabi this October.

WorldSkills competitions have been likened to the tradie Olympics, starting at a grass roots level in one of 35 Australian regions. The regional competitions test the skills and knowledge of more than 4,000 apprentices, trainees and students who have the opportunity to go on to compete at a national and international level.

Nathan first became involved in the WorldSkills Australia competitions while completing a school-based apprenticeship and was recognised for his natural talent and enthusiasm for technical and analytical problem solving.

After winning gold at the National Refrigeration Competition in Melbourne last year, Nathan has gone from strength to strength. His most recent challenge was competing at the Guangzhou Invitation Tournament in China last April. Nathan, who proudly won a bronze medal, said that the emphasis on WorldSkills in China is massive, “they will do anything to excel and pursue perfection and they are very, very competitive.”

TAFE Queensland refrigeration teacher Carl Balke has played a significant role in Nathan’s success throughout his apprenticeship, and the WorldSkills competition as his mentor. Carl was also selected to join Team Australia as a WorldSkills Australia Expert in his skill area and will be accompanying Nathan to Abu Dhabi. When speaking of the student-mentor relationship, Nathan said that it has to be a joint effort to be successful. “Carl is the backbone of it, he knows the competition and is always giving me the opportunity to learn more and keep my progression going,” he said.

Nathan has only recently returned from the Global Skills Challenge, which is a simulated international competition and an important training exercise in the lead up to the international competition. To help Nathan prepare Carl has been attempting to replicate the pressure that Nathan will face in order to build his resilience, bounce back from mistakes, and produce exceptional quality work.

“Nathan has the raw skills, passion and enthusiasm in everything he does. He’s an Australian larrikin who has the ability to think on the go and take on the pressure,” said Carl.

Nathan describes the WorldSkills Competition as the best journey in his life to date.“The one-on-one training, and the investment that people provide because they see your potential, gives you a real sense of pride in what you have achieved and what you are doing.”

Not only has Nathan grown both personally and professionally throughout the WorldSkills experience, he has also formed lasting friendships and experiences that will stay with him forever.

For more information about WorldSkills Australia and how you can get involved visit their website.

For more information about trades courses available at TAFE Queensland call 1300 308 233 or contact us today.

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