It was one of the smallest delegations competing against some of the best European vocational students and experienced professionals, but Malta’s team still came back home with a silver medal.

Euroskills is a biennial skills competition held over three days, where more than 450 young Europeans compete in over 40 skills – ranging from cooking and plumbing to web designing and electronics. The competitors are tasked with real life situations and tested against ‘tough European standards’ for 20 hours.

This year, the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology represented Malta with a team of six students in five categories: electronics, welding, web design, graphical design and printing technician. Jethro Farrugia and Matthew Monreal competed as a team in the electronics technician category and bagged a silver medal for Malta.

But that is not the only thing they brought back with them.

‘When I came back I noticed a big difference in my way of approaching and dealing with programming on a professional level,’ Mr Monreal said.

‘We brought back loads of experience,’ Mr Farrugia added.

The two were tasked with challenges where they had to take the right decision in the shortest possible time. Their tasks included assembling a car-lift simulator, finding faults in the lift’s electronic board and fixing them, and designing an electronic board with a particular programme for the lift.

Although they had been preparing for the competition all summer during their free time under the guidance of their lecturers, nothing prepared them for the psychological challenges and intensive schedule once they landed in Belgium. The contest, held at the popular Formula 1 racetrack, in Spa-Francorchamps, was tough, and students had to wake up as early as 6am.

The two were also limited when it came to the amount of equipment and tools they could take with them, compared to other competitors who had travelled overland.

Malta’s contingent, which included eight MCAST lecturers and support staff, was one of the smallest, considering that other European countries registered teams with as many as 50 members. They were also competing against some of the best Europeans, because in bigger States, a national contest is held to choose Euroskills participants.

Director of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, John Sciberras, who helped choose the Maltese team, was also a jury president on one of the panels of categories Malta did not take part in. He hopes the college finds more support from industry in the future, which could help sponsor other students to take part in the competition. The only sponsor the students had this year was Intercomp Group, which lent new laptops to participants to use in the competition.

This is not the first time Mcast students brought a medal home. The college started taking part in Euroskills in 2008, when it won two silver medals in the electronics and web design categories.

In 2010, Mcast’s team won two other medals: gold for web design and silver in the graphical design category.

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ReferNet Malta