Whilst August is usually a quiet month for Livery Companies it transpired that the start of August saw me setting off by train to Plymouth to visit HM Tamar to present prizes at the Landing Craft Vocational Courses Passout ceremony. The Plaisterers’ links with the Royal Marines are strong and serve to bind the role of the military to business and working life. 1 Assault Group RM are based at Tamar and undertake the training courses both for the UK and some Dutch marines. These are the elite, training to work in difficult and dangerous situations. Only a month earlier the Marines had boarded and detained the Iranian tanker in Gibraltar. I saw first-hand the training for that sort of exercise. I was lucky that the weather proved perfect for a trip around the Plymouth Sound on an ORC and the chance to view the ships in port and the busy harbour at Plymouth. At the ceremony the Marines were required to present to the assembled audience on a current issue for the Marines and their skill and enthusiasm allowed non-technical visitors (like me) to understand and even ask a relevant question. The visit underlined to me the tremendous professionalism of our forces and the part that the Livery can play in walking alongside and celebrating the hard work of our troops.
The end of August saw me visiting the World Skills International Competition in Kazan. Team UK had 37 competitors in 32 skills including plastering and drywall systems. Curtis Johnston was representing the UK from South East Regional College in Lisburn. The training manager and technical expert is one of our Liverymen, David Kehoe. The competition takes place over 5 days and a task is set to test the competitors’ skill and ability. The plastering task comprised building a room by creating a metal frame and installing plasterboard with some final finishing and decorative plasterwork. Working under pressure is difficult especially with the constant stream of visitors to view the work. The UK team did well to finish with 2 gold 1 silver and 1 bronze medals and 15 medallions of excellence. I was able to participate in the programme run by World Skills UK that brought together FE Colleges, training organisations and the Department for Education in which we discussed issues around training. I also met with those involved directly in construction training which will lead to a report to be issued later in the year.