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​If they were suffering from nerves they were not showing it. Hunter TAFE’s 14  WorldSkills competitors set off confidently for Melbourne today, with three days’ of intense competition ahead of them. The students, from trades as diverse as welding and fashion design, will be competing against 500 apprentices, trainees and students from all over the country.   
Competing at the WorldSkills National Competition in Melbourne is part of the ultimate journey to greatness for these young competitors. Their journey began at the WorldSkills Regional Competitions held in 31 regions across the country, including the Central Coast and Hunter regions.
For Aberglassyn’s Blake Ayerst, it is the second time competing at the Nationals. Last year the 22 year-old finished fourth in the Plastering competition. His advice for his Hunter TAFE teammates is clear.
“I tell them to stay calm as much as you can and don’t look at what anyone else is doing as it will put you off,” Blake said. “Any time you have left at the end of each day’s completion needs to be spent going over your plans and preparing for the next day. There’s definitely no time for partying,” he laughed.
Blake feels confident leading up to the first day of competition on Thursday. “I’m happy with all the training I’ve done. Plus I had a great trainer in (TAFE teacher) Brad Thomas, who is also a WorldSkills judge.” 
While Blake originally planned to be an electrician, plastering was something he grew up with. “My pop, uncle, dad, two cousins and step-uncle are all plasterers so, yes, you could say it’s in the family.”
The Plastering competition will take place over three 6-hour days and includes constructing steel stud and track walls, gyprocking, setting and finishing off with ornate cornices. Competitors will also be required to build a map of Australia out of gyprock. Judges will be evaluating the work based on level, plumb, measurements and overall finish.
The other 13 Hunter TAFE competitors from the Newcastle, Hunter and Central Coast regions are Cejay Aslop (Sheetmetal Work), Dylan Bloch (Welding), Matthew Brandt (Autobody Repair), Alexander Brown (Programming), Rhys Duggan (Painting and Decorating), Joshua Fletcher (Welding), Logan Gosper (Signage), Jordan Harwood (Autobody Repair), Shannon Holdom (Vehicle Painting), Matthew Hurley (Carpentry), Joshua Nott (Welding), Brooke Osland (Fashion Technology) and Joseph Stroud (Turning).
Stand-out national medallists from these categories may be selected to represent Australia as a Skillaroo at the 44th WorldSkills Competition to be held in Abu Dhabi, UAE, in 2017.