Autodesk University 2014: Inspiring the next generation

Posted on 7 Jan 2015 by Jonny Williamson

In the first of a new five-part weekly series, The Manufacturer talks exclusively with WorldSkills gold medallist Andrew Beel about the benefits the competition offers to both competitors and workplaces.

The Manufacturer (TM): How did you become involved in mechanical engineering and WorldSkills?

Andrew Beel at a computer.
Andrew Beel at a computer.

Andrew Beel (AB): My graphic communication teacher introduced me to 3D design tools during my fourth year of school. From that initial exposure, I soon realised that was the path I wanted to take so I went on to study computer drafting design at the [Motherwell-based] New College Lanarkshire.

I quickly become familiar with Autodesk Inventor as it was so heavily involved in the course and it was suggested that I looked at becoming part of the WorldSkills initiative [biennial competitions that showcase the value of skills and aim to raise the recognition of skilled professionals worldwide].

TM: How is the competition structured?

AB: Though the UK is only a 3D competition, whereas at the international level it becomes a 4D competition, the skills and knowledge being judged is roughly the same.

Typically, competitors are judged on their knowledge and ability to model parts and assemblies; create photo rendered images; create simulations; reverse engineer a physical model; produce technical drawings and dimensioning; understand materials and be able to use both software and hardware.

TM: What did your training involve?

AB: I attended weekly training sessions and made use of the College’s competition PCs to complete projects and tasks as quickly as possible and with the highest marks I could.

I successfully competed in the Scottish regional heat and progressed to the UK nationals where I won silver in 2012. At that time, the squad put forward for WorldSkills International comprised an initial 10 competitors being whittled down to five, with only one ultimately progressing through to the final competition.

Having survived the first cut, the other four and I would meet one week out of every month for five intense days of training, working together, drawing on our collective knowledge and bouncing ideas off of each other.

Disappointingly I missed out on being in the final, but I was still age-eligible to enter the following year. So I re-entered and completed the whole cycle again from regionals, UK nationals in 2013 where I took home gold [for Mechanical Engineering: CAD] and WorldSkills squad selection. This time I was successful and went forward for WorldSkills 2015, as well as EuroSkills 2014 – the biggest skills competition in Europe.

For EuroSkills, Team UK had around 21 people involved representing almost 20 different trades ranging from mechatronics and floristry. I competed across three days and I walked away with two gold’s for Best in Europe [for Mechanical Engineering: CAD] and Best of Nation [for the UK].

Andrew Beel with his two WorldSkills UK 2013 gold medals.
Andrew Beel with his two WorldSkills UK 2013 gold medals.

TM: What advantages do your think your WorldSkills experience and training offered to your career prospects?

AB: During my initial interview, my now manager [at Dundee oil and gas company, Pacson Valves] said that the most crucial aspect is to have someone with actual software experience. If I’d came in as a trainee draftsman, it would have taken the company around two years to teach me how they operate, how everything should be done and the standards they work to.

The fact I have such a broad knowledge base means large amounts time, energy and effort have been saved as I came in without needing that initial foundation training.

I’ve been at Pacson just over 18 months now and since starting I’ve redesigned a lot of the actual structure and templates that we use within Autodesk Inventor and Vault. One of my improvements involved putting iLogic coding behind the revision sheets which enables information to be carried across simultaneously, meaning information didn’t have to be re-entered for each sheet over their many revisions – something which can become complicated and figures being inadvertently dropped.

Little things like this have improved efficiency, workflow and made tasks that bit easier to complete for everyone involved.

TM: What part do you think events like Autodesk University and WorldSkills play in inspiring the next generation?

AB: During my time at College, I returned to my school and began teaching higher and advanced classes using the skills and lessons I had received. In that way, I wanted to make it easier for the next cohort to progress and reach the next level that much quicker.

I know exactly what it’s like to be a young person, sat in school with absolutely no idea what it is I want to do for the next five years, let alone the rest of my life. I feel that being involved in events such as these is a good way of pushing the next generation, opening their eyes and inspiring them.

In the past two years I’ve managed to progress from being a local lad to going out and representing the UK on the European and world stage. Being able to travel and see some of these places is an opportunity you just wouldn’t be given in your everyday job, so I love to share my story.