“There can be only one.”

 December 2008     

Who is Austria’s number 1 in terms of speed, precision, and skill? This question was answered recently at the Salzburg machine manufacturing company EMCO as the SkillsAustria competition took place.

HALLEIN – As Connor MacLeod, played by Christopher Lambert in the film ‘Highlander’ so rightly said: ‘there can be only one’. Using three criteria (speed, precision, and skill), judges at EMCO in Hallein last week decided who should be the one to represent Austria in the ‘CNC turning’ category at the professional world championship event WorldSkills 2009 in Canada.

At EMCO’s training center, 7 young hopefuls faced the challenging demands of the jury, made up of three CNC experts chosen by the Austrian Chamber of Commerce. The center provided the competitors with ideal conditions thanks to the high-tech machine tools (two Concept TURN 450s were used for machining) and the expert support of experienced EMCO employees from the areas of technology and training.

The competition was intensive: the trainees and technicians, who can be no older than 22 according to the WorldSkills rules, had to manufacture three different workpieces under enormous time pressure and strict quality control. Of course, no help was allowed, meaning that the machine controls had to be programmed, the machines had to be set up, and the workpieces machined and subsequently measured immediately after the candidates were given their task. Precision levels of 0.01 mm and time differences of just a few seconds therefore made all the difference between victory and defeat.

Benjamin Poredos from Vorarlberg won the competition, coming in ahead of Stefan Lechner and Martin Fink.

The road to the world championships is tough-going for the participants: as well as a high level of expertise in their professional field, they need to show strength of mind, team spirit, and physical fitness. Finally, the competitors are challenged over several days by assignments that can last up to 16 hours.

A professional environment rounds off the technicians’ commitment: among other things, they are supported successfully and generously by their training companies and the Chamber of Commerce, they are trained and supported by experts, coached by team mentors, and attend seminars lasting several days to prepare them for the physical and mental challenges that lie ahead.

Companies such as Swarovski, Blum, W&H, and of course EMCO, have been involved for several years in this event, which provides a platform for the technical, industrial and service professions. They provide the young technicians with a unique opportunity to boost their skills and general training enormously. And it is obvious that this opportunity is being used to the full: Austria has already been judged the winning country at the professional world championships several times.

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