Apprentice chases team spot

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From building bike jumps to being chosen to represent Otago-Southland team at a national trade skills competition, Oamaru’s Matthew McLellan has come a long way.

McLellan (18) has been selected for the WorldSkills New Zealand Competition at Wintec, in Hamilton, this weekend.

The competition features leading trades apprentices and trainees who compete in categories including automotive technology, plumbing, hairdressing and floristry.

McLellan and his team-mates will also be chasing spots in the New Zealand team – the Tool Blacks – for the 44th WorldSkills International Competition in Abu Dhabi next year.

The former Waitaki Boys’ High School pupil was nominated by a tutor at the Southern Institute of Technology for his joinery work about 18 months into his four-year apprenticeship.

He was surprised he made it into the team.

“It was a bit of a shock.”

He was nervous about the competition, but said he had been filling days leading up to the competition with practice.

What he enjoyed most about his trade as a joiner was the satisfaction he got from being able to see a finished product he crafted with his own hands.

His future aim was to open his own business.

When McLellan was younger, he would build his own bike jumps.

“No broken bones, but a few crashes.”

He said even if he did not gain a place in the national team this time, he was still young enough that he could be nominated again.

The national competition is project-based and competitors are required to complete the assigned projects over two high-pressure days.