A creative student from Sunderland College is feeling on top of the world after winning a spot in the finals of a global competition.
Billy Singh, 17, has battled his way through two rounds of WorldSkills UK to make it to the national heats, staged at Birmingham NEC in November.
The talented student is one of eight finalists in the 3D game art category, and if he triumphs in the national showcase event, he will then represent the UK in the international arm of the WorldSkills contest, due to be held in Russia in 2019.
Billy, from Gateshead, studies NextGen Level 3 Diploma in Games, Animation and VFX at Sunderland College. He said: “I’m really happy and very surprised to get to this stage. One of my lecturers encouraged me to enter the competition and I didn’t really know too much about it at first. I thought I would enter and see what happened but I didn’t really think it would lead anywhere. When I found out I had made it to the second round which was in London, I started researching the competition and that’s when I realised it was a lot bigger than I expected.”
The games design category is being sponsored by leading racing game developer Codemasters, which is also responsible for setting briefs and judging each competition round.
Billy was tasked with designing a cartoon haunted house, based on retro video game Ghost Hunters, for the initial round and then a fully animated 3D moose head for the semi-finals which took place at South Thames College in the capital.
He will now go head-to-head with the other finalists in a three-day 3D design challenge, as part of WorldSkills UK’s Skills Show – the largest free experiential skills, apprenticeships and careers event in the UK.
Billy added: “It has been a bit scary but also a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to the next round but I don’t know too much about what it involves yet as we’re not given the brief until the competition begins. Taking part in this has given me a real confidence boost and has encouraged me to continue along this career path.”
The talented teenager had no previous experience of 3D design before beginning the specialist course at Sunderland College, which is the only college in the North East running the programme.
Developed by NextGen Skills Academy in partnership with high-profile games, animation and VFX companies, including Double Negative, Framestore, Microsoft and Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, the diploma gives students the exact skills that employers in these industries are looking for and opens up a host of mentoring and internship opportunities for students.
Billy, a second year NextGen student, said: “I had studied computing and coding before joining Sunderland College, but had never done anything like 3D design. If it wasn’t for this course, I wouldn’t have known that I enjoyed the artistic side of games development. The course itself is great – I’ve been able to specialise in 3D design this year so I’ve been able to spend more time improving my skills in this area.”
The NextGen course was launched at Sunderland College in 2015 and is delivered in industry-standard facilities in the Arts Academy at Bede Campus.
More than 200 students are now enrolled on the course, which is taught by a seven-strong team of specialist lecturers.
Billy’s lecturer, Matt Hall joined the NextGen lecturing staff last year after working as an animator for three years at Eutechnyx, the company behind the popular NASCAR games.
He said: “Billy is a talented student and is already getting very close to industry-standard. This is an incredible achievement, considering he’s only just started his second year and had never tried 3D modelling before joining the college. I knew he would do well in the WorldSkills UK competition and we’re all really proud of how far he’s already come in such a short space of time.”
Ellen Thinnesen, Sunderland College’s principal and chief executive, said: “This is a highly-regarded and prestigious competition that gives young people a platform to showcase their fantastic skills and abilities on a national and global level. We are thrilled that Sunderland College is being represented at WorldSkills UK, and that our innovative NextGen course is producing a pipeline of talented and industry-ready employees for the digital sector. Billy has the full support of the college and we wish him the very best of luck for this stage of the competition.”
For more information about the NextGen Level 3 Diploma in Games, Animation and VFX course at Sunderland College, click here.