Mike’s career takes flight
15 Jun 2021
Mike West took out the Silver Medal for Aircraft Maintenance at the 2013 WorldSkills International Competition in Leipzig, Germany. Today, he is working for the Royal New Zealand Air Force and after a rigorous selection process, he has been selected for a Royal New Zealand Air Force ‘Wings’ Course and is on track to becoming a military pilot.
“My first exposure to WorldSkills New Zealand was back in 2011, when Mike Naus, the now current Skill Manager for Aircraft Maintenance, sent a request to all technical Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) units asking if they had suitable candidates for an upcoming National Aircraft Maintenance competition to be held in Christchurch. I was one of four RNZAF Aircraft Technicians put forward to compete.
The inaugural Aircraft Maintenance National competition was largely made up of RNZAF trainees, it was along the lines of what I expected as RNZAF Aircraft Technicians are run through a series of trade tests during primary and senior trade training, so I was accustomed to working under pressure and within a timeframe.
The 2013 International competition in Leipzig, Germany was much more of an eye opener. Many months’ worth of preparation went in prior to competing. There were still plenty of nerves, especially as I was up against some very skilled competition, and because there were roughly 200,000 to 300,000 people spectating over the course of the four days of competition.
Competing taught me how to perform accurately under pressure in a timed environment, and what mechanisms I could put in place to simplify situations to detach and find a solution to a problem, as well as get me back on track if I waivered. This translated directly back to my workplace where I felt that, after the competition, I had gained a higher level of confidence in my own abilities as a technical tradesperson.
The WorldSkills experience opened my eyes to the enormous number of vocational skills available to people of all ages to become involved in, and really made me admire the hard work and dedication every single competitor put into their chosen skill. In a way, it helped to solidify confidence in my own technical abilities, which helped me to perform to an even higher level than I was prior to competing as a part of WorldSkills New Zealand.
In the years following the competition, I would often use my experience to encourage younger tradespeople coming through to really test their abilities and push themselves beyond what they thought they could achieve. I became more senior in the workplace, I would try my best to ‘normalise’ success, so that people wouldn’t be afraid to try their best, even if that meant standing out.”