SkillBuild, delivered by CITB, is the largest multi-trade skills competition in the UK for construction trainees and apprentices.  A series of regional competitions sees the very best compete against each other to be crowned a winner in their chosen trade.  Much like the Olympics, as each level of competition progresses, competitors will be tested not only on their technical abilities, but on their time management, character and commitment, and the competitions can help build confidence, self-esteem and vital life skills.

George Swann FIS Skills and Training Lead was invited to the UK SkillBuild National finals held at the National Construction College in Bircham Newton. The finalists are listed by their colleges, but a little digging discovered five of the six finalists in the Plastering and Drywall category are FIS members.  The finalists were:

  • Liam Watson, Matthew Connolly and Ignas Kurasovas from Errigal Contracts Ltd.
  • Tommy Falco from West London College employed by K10 and subcontracted to the BDL Group.
  • Zara Dupont from Leeds College of Building who is a trainee.
  • And the non-FIS member Billy Messent of Preston College who works for Fullwood Plastering Services.

The competitors were set an 18 hour project to complete across the three days of the competition (16, 17 and 18 November 2021) each day included a stretch test and through George’s observations finalists only stopped when they were told by the judges they had to take a break.  It was clear some finalists were faster, but the competition is not a speed event, the judging is based on quality and accuracy.

The finalists are the best from a series of remotely-delivered qualifiers ran across the UK during May and June, with nearly 100 colleges supporting 250 competitors in their respective skills.  In addition to their physical tasks, prior to the event competitors were set a new online assessment, which tested their understanding of employability aspects such as health, safety and the environment obligations.  All the time the finalists were at their built it was constant movement.

There are nine occupations represented in the UK SkillBuild competition with five of these occupations employed in the finishes and interiors sector; bricklaying, carpentry, furniture and cabinetmaking, joinery, painting and decorating, plastering, plastering and drywall systems, stonemasonry and wall, and floor tiling.

Those competitors who successfully progress through the UK SkillBuild 2021 National Finals may represent the UK at EuroSkills, a competition against 28 European countries.  EuroSkills will be held in St Petersburgh in 2022.  Successful individuals will be joined by the medal winners from 2020.

The final step in this journey is for SkillBuild competitors to reach the full international stage of WorldSkills, the ‘Skills Olympics’ where elite individuals take on global competition from 80 countries, all striving to be acclaimed ‘Best in the World’.  SkillBuild medal winners from 2020 and 2021 have the potential to compete at WorldSkills Lyon in 2023.

Long-term sponsors of UK SkillBuild include BAL Adhesives, British Gypsum and Crown, with Michelmersh, the brick specialists, joining to support the bricklaying competitions.  British Gypsum attended the event and George caught up with Dave Hall, Sam Blacknell and Peter Baum to discuss the training British Gypsum delivers in support of the finishes and interiors sector.  British Gypsum supplied and delivered all of the materials for the plastering and plastering and drywall systems competitions.  Dave, Sam and Peter were all impressed by the work of this year’s finalists.

George also met with Errigal Contracts Ltd Ciara King and Terry McDermott to discuss Errigal’s ambition to be registered as an Employer Provider for the delivery of apprenticeship training at the Errigal Academy.  Errigal have had finalist in UK SkillBuild for the past three years and have had employees representing Plastering and Drywall at EuroSkills and WorldSkills competitions.  They will be bringing all their competitors together to watch the virtual Awards Ceremony together on Friday.

The medal ceremony for this year’s competition is a virtual event, a live broadcast, being hosted by Steph McGovern from her Channel 4 Packed Lunch Studio at 16:00 on Friday 26 November 2021:

The competition culminated on Thursday evening with an Awards Ceremony for the ‘Stretch Test’, a timed test also marked on accuracy and precision.  The Plastering and Drywall competitors were tasked to cut a double plug socket, a single plug socket and a 120mm diameter ventilation hole in their structures  This contest was won by Tommy Falco of West London College.

After the Awards Ceremony George got to speak to some of the finalists, who all stated the experience of being involved in the SkillBuild competition is inspiring and has helped them develop their skills and techniques to ensure they are effective, efficient and economic on site.  On behalf of FIS George congratulated all UK SkillBuild competitors he spoke too and wished them every success in their future.  The winners and the runners up will all be back at their places of work on Monday morning, some thinking about EuroSkills and WorldSkills and others content that they are one of the top six in the UK.

Zara Dupont the trainee from Leeds College of Building has ambition to secure an apprenticeship in drylining. Through George’s introductions there may be an opportunity at Errigal Contracts Ltd.  After a call with BDL Group Tommy Falco may receive an offer of direct employment.

2022 may feel far away but plans for next year’s SkillBuild competition are already well underway.  With a return to face-to-face activities and the potential to progress to international competitions via WorldSkills UK, SkillBuild 2022 is set to be the biggest and best yet.

Due to social distancing restrictions and guidelines still being in place, UK SkillBuild had to reduce their competition capacities this year.  If you registered for SkillBuild 2021 but were unsuccessful in securing a place, please do try again in 2022.  More information, including details on how to register, will be released in due course CITB cannot wait to welcome you all back for SkillBuild 2022.  If you have any questions about SkillBuild, get in touch with the team at