A former Sussex Downs College student has won gold representing the UK at an international awards ceremony known as the ‘skills Olympics’.
Alumni Kaiya Swain claimed the prize at the WorldSkills Finals in Abu Dhabi last night (Thursday).
The 22-year-old from Stone Cross was voted the world’s best young beauty therapist, receiving the gold medal in a dazzling awards ceremony.
She also received a second gold medal for ‘Best of the Nation’, having scooped the highest marks out of the entire UK team.
Kaiya, who now works at Kaiya Rose Beauty, said, “It was an absolute honour to represent my country. This is a dream come true, I never expected to come out on top.”
Kaiya’s success follows three years of intensive training with Sussex Downs College, which saw her advance through regional heats and a national final, before being selected for Team UK in April this year.
She started at the college in 2011, studying Hair and Beauty alongside Theatrical Make-up.
She said, “I live and breathe WorldSkills. Fifty per cent is your mindset in these competitions.
“I am so proud of making it into Team UK. This competition has bettered me as a therapist, making me more employable and setting me a bar above the standard therapist.
“I believe that, through hard work and determination, there is nothing that you can’t achieve in the beauty industry.”
Mike Hopkins, Principal and Chief Executive of Sussex Downs College, praised Kaiya’s success in Abu Dhabi. He said, “Here at Sussex Downs we are in awe of Kaiya’s achievement.
“With the support of great staff at Sussex Downs, she has become the best in her profession and craft in the world!
“That is fantastic and will be with her forever. On behalf of the Board, the staff and all students at Sussex Downs, I send our heartfelt best wishes and congratulations.”
Linda Collison, Programme Manager for Hair, Beauty & Complementary Therapies at the College, said, “The profile of the competition has raised significantly because of Kaiya and we have more Beauty Therapy and Hairdressing students than ever before dedicating their time to the competition.
“Kaiya returns to the College to train our current learners in the competition, which is fantastic.
“We already have another learner who is following Kaiya’s example and hopes to compete in the WorldSkills Final in Russia, 2019. The spotlight has never been so firmly on the competition and the beauty industry here in East Sussex. It’s an exciting time.”
Team UK triumphed in the WorldSkills Finals, picking up no less than 20 medals: one gold, three silver, three bronze and 13 medallions of excellence at a spectacular closing ceremony in front of 15,000 people at the Du Arena.
Team UK finished 10th (out of 77) in the medals table ahead of Germany, and was the smallest team to make the global top 10.
Dr. Neil Bentley, CEO of WorldSkills UK said, “Let the bells ring out, let the flags fly – these young people have done the nation proud.
“If we celebrate Team UK’s success and use it to inspire others to follow in their footsteps - the future of the UK is in safe hands. “
And Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, Anne Milton MP, said, “I have been blown away by Team UK. They have done fantastically well – this is the UK competing on the World stage for skills and achieving great things.
“There will be huge celebrations when they come home. To get to this level is brilliant.
“There is a message here for parents – university is not the only option – the opportunities are boundless if they overcome any bias that they might have. We must ensure that the young apprentices here become an inspiration to others.
“WorldSkills UK is doing a fantastic job supporting these young people – with thousands of hours of input. We need to put all that they are doing - the ethos of this competition, the spirit of these apprentices- into a bottle and sprinkle it across the UK.”