Chloe Lloyd Hughes And Ellie Ruff with their medals earlier this year

A student and former student from North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College have been keeping up a rigorous routine of training as members of Squad UK despite the coronavirus lockdown. The pandemic has called a halt to planned training bootcamps, but the talented pair are spending time on Zoom and Skype and completing challenges in their specialist disciplines at home.

Former catering student and Nuneaton chef Chloe Lloyd-Hughes, 20, is due to compete in the culinary arts category while graphic design student Ellie Ruff, 18, will take on challenges in visual merchandising. Both became part of the prestigious WorldSkills UK Talent Development Programme after excelling in its national WorldSkills UK LIVE skills competitions.

The two women have been offered the chance to represent the UK on the world’s stage following their selection for Squad UK as part of the international WorldSkills competition. They will compete for the chance to represent the UK at the bi-annual event in Shanghai in 2021 known as the ‘Skills Olympics’.

Chloe, who is on furlough from her job at the Sunnyside Inn in Nuneaton, said, “We spend about four hours every Wednesday on a Zoom session with WorldSkills and we’re getting through a lot of theory. We have presentations and Q&A sessions which are really interesting. I am pleased because this week we have been given a cookery challenge to make a dessert. I can’t say what I am making because the challenges are top secret, but I am going to enjoy some time in the kitchen even if I am having to stay at home.”

Ellie, who is finishing her college coursework at home, said, “WorldSkills have really looked after us during lockdown and have sent me loads of materials that I use to practice visual merchandising. I have received consignments of crockery, vinyl, wood and tools so that I have got everything I need at my fingertips. I have set up a makeshift studio in my garage at home where my work is taking over, but I am enjoying keeping my skills sharp. I am also carrying out market research online so I can work out what appeals to the different retail audiences.”

WorldSkills is taking extra precautionary measures to safeguard all participants involved in the WSUK Talent Development Programme and is reviewing government guidance on a daily basis. All face to face training activity has been suspended until the end of August and alternative arrangements for remote training activity are being put in place over the coming months including virtual workshops.

The international WorldSkills competition in Shanghai will feature over 1,000 of the world’s most talented apprentices and students competing in over 50 different skills as they battle it out to be named the World Champion in their chosen skill.

Marion Plant, OBE FCGI, Principal and Chief Executive of North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College, who is also deputy chair and trustee of WorldSkills said, “Chloe and Ellie are doing really well to keep up their training during this difficult time. The coronavirus lockdown has required all of us to learn new skills in a different way over the last few months and it is great that they are able to keep on track with their preparations using technology.

“They are facing a tough challenge to secure their places representing the UK on the world stage and have already dedicated hundreds of hours to improving their skills to get to this level.  I am sure that competing as part of Squad UK will provide them both with an unforgettable experience, despite the current constraints, that will help them to grow and develop both personally and professionally.”

The pair are undertaking an 18-month training programme with WorldSkills UK, supported by North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College, and will face the ultimate selection test in Spring 2021 when the team that will compete at WorldSkills Shanghai is named.

The previous WorldSkills Competition was in Kazan, Russia in 2019 where Team UK was awarded 19 medals. By taking part in the competition, WorldSkills UK identifies global best practice, research and insight that will help the new UK government to deliver world class standards in technical education.