Past, Present and Future: A competitor’s journey

Young men and women across Australia enter WorldSkills competitions for a variety of reasons: it sounded like fun, to test themselves, because their employer or teacher encouraged them to, but some have a deeper reason. A long term reason, to set themselves and their family up for the future.

Ashleigh Huntley, a past Skillaroo in 2013, worked as a design assistant after the international competition in Germany and has since started not one but two businesses. She credits WorldSkills Australia with “skyrocketing” her skills and confidence.

“I’ve been drawing and designing clothing ever since I could remember. My mother taught me how to sew when I was seven, and she has been a great inspiration in getting me started in the fashion design and technology world. I have always loved the creative, practical process of making beautiful clothes, so it was a natural progression to follow a career in fashion and costume.”

“As a result, I have two businesses now: One where I make custom outfits for clients for formal, wedding or special occasions under Ash-Lynne Couture ( The second business I have just started, from a fast-fashion point of view, is Twerk Out ( a Dancewear label specialising in kneepads and clothing for the new fitness dance craze.”

“The training program and mentorship I received throughout my WorldSkills journey and beyond has really skyrocketed my level of skills in all aspects that make up fashion technology. In particular for my custom made clothing. My training with my WorldSkills mentors increased my confidence of fitting different bodies and producing quality high end finishes on any garment, from bridal to women’s tailoring.”

Ashleigh is a perfect example of how to make the most of the opportunities given to you. She’s worked hard to get where she is now and the experiences she’s had with WorldSkills Australia have only benefitted her and helped grow her success.

When you talk about living in the present, no one shows that better than the 2016 Gold Medal Landscape Construction team of Dougal King and Alexander (Alex) Halls. Landscape Construction is one of the few National team skills that exemplifies team work and comradery. Dougal says “It was really good working in a team. Alex and I get along really well, we’re both cool, calm and collected. We helped each other so if one of us got flustered we helped the other one out.”

Alex felt the same, saying “The team work was a great experience and being able to help each other was fantastic. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I couldn’t have done it on my own.”

“Dougal and I were aiming for gold so we dedicated as much time as we could. Every time we saw each other we were so excited to train.”

“Once we found out we’d won, it was fantastic. It felt surreal. Dougal picked me up and carried me to the stage, we were just so excited. Every time we see each other now we talk about winning and are still over the moon.”

“It was one of the proudest moments of my life” says Dougal. “To celebrate with my family was amazing. My dad is so proud of me. I have six siblings and I’m the youngest so to have everyone proud of me feels fantastic. I’m addicted to WorldSkills.”

Both Dougal and Alex have been selected for the Skills Squad, aiming to make their way to Abu Dhabi in October 2017. “When I got the call that I was part of the squad I was trying not to have a heart attack” says Alex. “I just can’t wait to start training again, to meet other competitors and to go through the whole experience.” Dougal and Alex are set on making the most of their WorldSkills journey, both encouraging other young men and women to “Go for it, you have nothing to lose. You’ll make so many friends from your skill but also from your local area” said Alex.

Looking to the future Mary George, Bronze Medalist in Retail Baking Pastry in Melbourne 2016, wants to be the best pastry chef in the world. She recently worked at Adriano Zumbo, had a cupcake business and blog when she was 13 and wears a wristband that says ‘Become the Best’.

Mary, who has been selected for the Skills Squad team, is a perfectionist and always endeavours to learn from each experience and be the best she can, and her main focus right now is to go all the way to Abu Dhabi in 2017.

“I recently worked as a pastry chef at Adriano Zumbo. Adriano himself is always in the kitchen working with his staff. It is great having him in the kitchen – we are able to gain such valuable and useful knowledge from him and learn from his feedback. His leadership of our team is what has helped inspire me to achieving my vision of becoming the best pastry chef in the world.”

“My father passed away when I was really young, and I got into baking as an outlet to keep myself calm. I always try to keep him proud of me and I want to be a big support to my mum.”

“In five years’ time, I would love to have my own patisserie filled with my own unique and inspiring creations. I would love to have travelled and experienced working with the best chefs all around the world, always learning and pitching my skills against the very best out there. I would love to experience many competitions by that time, to help hone my skills.”

It seems that Mary is on the right track to achieving her goals. At WorldSkills Australia we can’t wait to see what creations she comes up with in the future.

Ashley, Dougal, Alex and Mary have taken part in many aspects of WorldSkills competitions. Starting at their regional competition, then moving on to the Nationals and then competing or aiming for the international stage. No matter your reason for taking part in a WorldSkills competition, the experiences you have and the friends and contacts you make, last a lifetime. They’re from your past, your present and your future.