New Zealand duo bound for world youth IT contest

Bright young things to gather in Finland

Success in local Youth Skills contests has earned students Matthew Wales and Nathan Champion a place in the IT section of the international WorldSkills contest in Finland next month.

Wales (17) and Champion (19) will travel to Helsinki to represent New Zealand in the IT section of the global contest, in which 800 competitors from 40 countries will take part in events for under-21 year olds who have achieved success in contests in their own countries.

Wales is entered in the software development category and Champion in the PC and network support section of the event.

For Champion, the contest will be a chance to hone the skills he's gained in the past few years while working in IT support at Southern Cross Healthcare and competing in local SkillEx Youth Skills contests.

Winning gold at last year's SkillEx qualified him for the global competition and he recently stopped work to concentrate full time on preparing for WorldSkills, where he says the PC and Network Support contest will be more complicated than its name suggests.

"It's quite a bit more advanced than that — it's not really about support, it's about building infrastructure," he says.

"We'll be working with Cisco routers and switches, firewalls and setting up servers."

The contest is divided between Cisco, Microsoft and Linux skills, he says, and the standard of the contestants' work — not the speed at which they do it — is the criteria for judging.

"No one finished [in the time given] last year — that's how intense it is."

Champion has been involved in IT from a young age, having entered SkillEx for the first time at 13 and becoming a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer at the same age, making him the youngest person in New Zealand to gain an MCSE.

He left school in the fourth form to go to work at Southern Cross and study, later returning for his sixth and seventh form years.

He has also been studying towards a Bachelor of International Communication at Unitec and would ultimately like to work in technical writing or journalism.

"I want to mix IT with communications," he says.

Champion's teammate Matthew Wales is also studying, for a Bachelor of Business in Finance and a BA in Economics at AUT.

Combining economics and IT is his career aim, he says.

"A lot of economics is computer modeling and I'd like to be involved in that modeling, doing it for clients so they can put in their variables and end up with a view of their economic outlook."

Wales' success at SkillEx last year not only earned him a place in the New Zealand WorldSkills team — it also got him some work.

"I've had a few contracts, including one with Carter Holt Harvey and one for CST, which makes galvanising products."

The job for Carter Holt Harvey involved working on Access and Oracle databases for the company's Laminex Group.

Wales has most of his sponsorship arranged, but is seeking more to cover all expenses.

The WorldSkills contest takes place in Helsinki, Finland from May 26–29 and Champion and Wales will travel there as part of a contingent of 15 competitors, 13 judges and several other officials from New Zealand.

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