Worldskills competition puts IT students to the test

Students shine in ‘real world’ tests using SUSE Linux 10.2 and VMware Server.

From left to right: Nathan Turnbridge; Hoshedar Kharas; Malcolm Stone; Blake Warton; Ryan Hook; Michael Ohlsen; Jesty Salvatierra; Alek Patsouris; Roy Simohartono; Mawan Kharoufeh; Trevor Haskins; Geethani Nair; Brian Simmons; John Kurniadi; Ross Dallinger. Front: Lachlan Holmes

From left to right: Nathan Turnbridge; Hoshedar Kharas; Malcolm Stone; Blake Warton; Ryan Hook; Michael Ohlsen; Jesty Salvatierra; Alek Patsouris; Roy Simohartono; Mawan Kharoufeh; Trevor Haskins; Geethani Nair; Brian Simmons; John Kurniadi; Ross Dallinger. Front: Lachlan Holmes

The Worldskills Australia regional competition in PC and Network Support took place at the Mount Druitt College, TAFE NSW Western Sydney Institute last week.

Student Jesty Karl Salvatierra beat out his competitors in a close field, with contestants having seven hours to complete their infrastructure and IT systems configurations. Designed to test the competitors’ skills and abilities in the key areas of PC support and network maintenance in a ‘real world’ business environment, the participants had to install a guest operating system of SUSE Linux 10.2 onto a host running VMware Server.

Paul Harapin, VMware Australia and New Zealand managing director, called the event the IT equivalent of MasterChef. “To use the MasterChef analogy, it’s not just about serving up the food, but it’s in the plating up and the presentation of it too,” Harapin said. VMware’s Dennis Lao, systems engineer, and Reid Purvis, VMware Systems Engineer, NSW Public Sector and Education, donned their aprons as event judges, to see if the proof was in the IT pudding.

“When the VMware judges looked at the final installation and the way the Web server was set up, it came down to the fine technical details and overall skill to produce the final winner,” Harapin said. “At the tasting of the output, the feedback was very positive overall.”

This is the first year that VMware has been involved with the Worldskills competition. Harapin believes that IT diplomas and degrees need to encompass virtualisation, and the company has been doing a lot of work in the higher education system.

“What they were doing [in the competition] is applicable to any customer, small or large, from a local business all the way up to a company of the Commonwealth Bank’s size — the skills they have are transferable,” he said.

The competition focuses on students building complete IT systems including setting up hardware, installing operating systems and applications, and documenting and troubleshooting the infrastructure.

The eight participants, who live, study or work in the Western Sydney region, were presented with a 'customer' case study featuring specific requirements. The six major tasks that had to be completed during the course of the event included a complete PC assembly and OS installation; installing and configuring peripherals; installing, configuring and securing the network; and setting up SUSE 10.1, including the Apache Web server.

The students were required to document what they were doing throughout the day, including process and, more importantly, the configuration they used. This was one of the key differentiators for the overall winner.

Geethani Nair, the head IT teacher at Mount Druitt College, said that students were also given four troubleshooting tasks, including two PC faults and two network faults based on real world scenarios.

“All the students passed the official tasks, but some students were unable to identify the problem,” she said. “The students that excelled in the troubleshooting tasks rectified the faults and clearly documented the results.”

Nair was full of praise for the winner. She described Salvatierra, a first semester IT student, as “hardworking and dedicated”.

“Even though the college doesn’t teach Linux in the first semester, Salvatierra taught himself the basics, practicing in the labs with the assistance of other students,” she said.

The next stage of the competition will be the national finals, held in Brisbane. Alek Patsouris (silver medal) will take part (Salvatierra has been ruled out due to age requirements). Roy Simohartono was awarded the bronze medal.

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