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Callum - Team UK competitor, WorldSkills Kazan 2019

Callum from Forth Valley College reached world-class standards of excellence in Painting and Decorating after taking part in our international development programme as part of Team UK and competing at WorldSkills Kazan 2019. He's now using the skills he's gained to set up his own business. Read his inspirational story.

Callum painting at WorldSkills Kazan

Tuesday, 08 Sep 2020

School wasn’t the happiest or most productive time of Callum Bonner’s life. “My concentration was terrible, I just couldn’t settle down in the classroom, so didn’t learn as well as others who could.” There were some bright parts too though, “I knew I was good at woodwork and graphic design so it seemed an obvious choice to go into the construction sector, and I chose to do an apprenticeship in painting and decorating and enrolled at Forth Valley College.”

Callum first heard about WorldSkills UK Competitions at college and was keen to take part. He passed the National Qualifier round in 2017 and went on to compete in the National Finals held as part of WorldSkills UK Live at the NEC Birmingham in November that year, in front of thousands of spectators. His hard work paid off and he was awarded a Highly Commended Certificate. He went on to be selected for Squad UK, then Team UK where he competed in WorldSkills Kazan, Russia, winning a Medallion of Excellence confirming his skills to be of a high standard internationally.

Callum at WorldSkills Kazan

Asked what he thinks he has learned from competing Callum says,

“It’s been unbelievable, I’ve learned organisation, how to work as part of a team as well as increasing my technical skills levels, I could go on about it all day!”


Employers are looking increasingly at which skills aside from the pure technical skills, that employees can bring into the workplace that drive up performance and standards in themselves and their colleagues. Callum believes taking part has benefited him personally in the workplace. “It’s fast-tracked me on everything I wanted to do.”

Callum thinks that other young people thinking about entering WorldSkills UK Competitions should take advantage of the possibilities offered, saying, “Go for it! It’s the best thing I’ve done in my life so far.”

Having enjoyed his experiences in competitions Callum says, “Getting the Medallion for Excellence in Kazan was the highlight. Just knowing that all the hard work had paid off after two years of ups and downs, It felt like a massive achievement.” He has made sacrifices to meet his goals, “I had to cut myself off from a lot of my life for two years to give 100% to WorldSkills UK and the Squad UK and Team UK training.” But he has been repaid for his efforts adding, “When I was selected for Squad UK I felt it was such an achievement and I was so excited and emotional.”

Callum at the Team UK send off for WorldSkills Kazan

Having worked for Clackmannanshire Council in the team responsible for refurbishing properties prior to new tenants taking up residence, Callum has decided to take his next big step. He has been asked to undertake more specialist work, outside of his day-to-day job, which he feels will challenge him more and so he has started his own business.

“Competing generated lots of media coverage getting my name known. Starting my own business is definitely now the right thing to do. In time I want to have a couple of teams on the road.”

Ironically the COVID-19 pandemic has actually helped Callum get his plans going sooner. “Not being able to work each day was an opportunity for me to bring my plans for my own business together earlier.”

Callum thinks that technical education and career pathways have great potential but are still too little known to those who would benefit from them. “It needs to be shown what people can gain which at the moment they just don’t know about. It’s not just a straightforward apprenticeship you need to look at, it’s the whole range of them to suit every ambition. There are 1,500 different apprenticeships available and I didn’t know there were that many!”

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