Despite COVID-19 restrictions and a surprise call-up to the competition, Cameron Harrison has brought home another gold medal for Queensland in the WorldSkills Australia National Championships.

Harrison was halfway through his final block of TAFE in his Certificate III in Air Conditioning and Refrigeration when lead lecturer Carl Balke tapped him on the shoulder. The Brisbane competitor for the WorldSkills Nationals in refrigeration and air conditioning could no longer compete – would Cameron step in?

Balke has an eye for WorldSkills talent, having worked with many winning students over the years, including Patrick Brennan, who won bronze in the WorldSkills international tournament in 2019. Harrison accepted the challenge, and started training.

“Every Friday leading up to the competition I would go in for half a day to a day, and do training with Carl and practice the skills that he thought were necessary,” says Harrison. His employer, Specialized Refrigeration Services, supported the effort by giving him the Fridays off.

At the same time he was preparing for his capstone.

“Carl wanted me to get the capstone done first,” says Harrison. “The way he sees it is the capstone prepares you for WorldSkills, because it’s similar pressure, but you’ve got a lot more to do.”

Despite all the preparation, the prospect of competing was still daunting.

“I was pretty nervous,” Harrison admits. “I didn’t really know what to expect. I had competed in regional WorldSkills for my Cert II in Electrotechnology but I hadn’t competed in WorldSkills otherwise.”

On top of this, the competition was running in a modified format due to COVID-19 restrictions, with some contenders working and being judged remotely. It was new territory for everyone.

For Harrison, the biggest challenge was the major project – bending up the name of the sponsor, Kirby, out of a single piece of pipe, commissioning and setting the superheat and subcooling within the time limit.

The fault-finding, on the other hand, he describes as “fun”.

“That was probably my favourite part,” says Harrison, and adds that it’s one of his favourite parts of the job.

“I find it rewarding,” he says. “You get to site not knowing what the fault is, and you’ve just got to figure it out based on what the customer tells you and what you can see the system is doing.”

In some ways, finding the faults went more smoothly than finding out he had actually won the gold medal. Winners were announced on a Wednesday night – but Harrison was expecting the results on the Thursday.

“I was actually out for dinner with my girlfriend, and I got a text from Carl and one of the other guys I competed with,” Harrison says. “All of sudden I started getting all these texts from people saying congratulations, you won gold, and I had no idea what they were talking about!”

He was on call, so couldn’t have a drink to celebrate. But since then, he has had a chance to toast the victory, and ponder his WorldSkills future – potentially the next competition in Shanghai.

“Due to COVID-19 and everything that’s happening around the world, they’re not too sure what’s going to happen with the selection process and whether Shanghai will go ahead or not,” says Cameron.

“I’m still a bit unsure because it all came as a shock – I wasn’t expecting to get gold, so I’m still taking it in. But it’s something I’m pretty keen to do.”

The winners from the WorldSkills Australia National Championships in Refrigeration and Air Conditioning are:

  • Gold – Cameron Harrison, Queensland – Brisbane
  • Silver – Ryan Hanns, Australian Capital Territory – Canberra
  • Bronze – Tom Clancy, Western Australia – Perth South
  • Certificate of Excellence – Jared Tesch, Queensland – North Queensland

For more information about WorldSkills, visit www.worldskills.org.au

Image courtesy of WorldSkills Australia.


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