Weber application manager to judge Plastering and Finishing final at SkillBuild 2023

With just a day to go until the final, we spoke to WorldSkills finalist, SkillBuild judge and our very own Weber application manager, Curtis Johnston, to find out more about the competition and why he thinks the construction industry should place more emphasis on the achievements of the competitors…

SkillBuild Final

Organised by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), the SkillBuild competition offers talented trainees and apprentices the opportunity to showcase their skills in one of ten trade categories.   More than 1,000 registrants from across the UK have competed across 17 regional heats, and now the top 8 from each category will be battling it out at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes from 21-23 November.  Competitors will need to construct a project created by judges. They have 18 hours split over three days to complete the task, which will test their knowledge, skills, and abilities while working to strict timelines, all while adhering to health and safety protocols. 

Competitor turned judge

Curtis is returning as a judge for the third time at this year's event, but he also has experience as a competitor having previously taken part in both SkillBuild and WorldSkills.

“When I was an apprentice in college, my lecturer put me forward for the plastering and drywall systems category at SkillBuild. I competed in the Northern Ireland final and then went to the UK final where I qualified for the team representing the UK at WorldSkills 2019,” explains Curtis.

“I trained for two days a week in the run up to the WorldSkills, practicing not just the trade skills but also the timings. You need to maximise every minute because the time is so limited. Everyone there is the top person in their country so you’re going against the very best.” 

2019 marked the 45th WorldSkills competition and was held in Kazan, Russia. Curtis placed 10th out of 18 competitors from across the globe. 

Advancing your career

Curtis has been plastering for nine years now and believes that his achievements at SkillBuild and WorldSkills have made a huge difference in his career.  

“Before I worked at Weber, I was self-employed. If I was speaking with customers and started talking about SkillBuild or WorldSkills, you could see they were instantly impressed. 

“It’s hard for homeowners looking for tradespeople as they never really know what they’re going to get, so having these competitions against your name reassures customers that you’re capable of doing the job to a really high standard.”

Photo: SERC

Celebrating trade skills

SkillBuild provides a great opportunity for tradespeople to get the recognition they deserve for the skilled work they do, as well as encourage the next generation to get into construction.

“At a time where construction is dominated by new technology and AI, SkillBuild is a great way to showcase the human skills that remain vital for the industry,” says Curtis.

“We don’t place the same emphasis on trades in the UK as other countries do. Outside of the construction colleges, these competitions aren’t very well known whereas other countries treat WorldSkills like the Olympics. It even has an opening ceremony where all the competitors take part and that really was a once in a lifetime experience.

“I met some great people and found out that countries like China hold SkillBuild with such high regard that their winners would be gifted grand prizes like houses by their government.”

Advice for SkillBuild competitors

What’s Curtis’ advice for anyone considering entering SkillBuild in the future?

“Anybody can do it if they get their head down and focus on their work”, says Curtis. 

“You should think about the future and how what you do and achieve at college now could shape the rest of your career, so get stuck in.”

Photo: SERC

Saint-Gobain Weber has sponsored the Plastering and Finishing category of the national SkillBuild competition for the sixth consecutive year. By sponsoring, Weber is supplying competitors with materials and equipment to use to complete their projects.

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