WorldSkills UK Fitness Trainer Competition: Meet the finalists – Samantha Laird and Thomas Gallivan

With just a month to go until the start of the Skills Show – where AoC Sport will be managing the finals of the WorldSkills UK Fitness Trainer Competition – Competition Manager Christopher Pitts chats past, present and future with the finalists.


The finalists have been competing since March 2016 and have taken part in institution-based competitions, live regional heats and a semi-final at Loughborough University. The competitors will now all be challenged once again across the three days of the Skills Show to demonstrate their talent and skill in either Personal Training or Gym Instructing.

A team of four expert judges has been brought together from the four corners of theUKand will work underneath Karen Stanton as head judge to assess the finalists in both competitions.

This week we’re talking to Samantha Laird and Thomas Gallivan.

S – I’m Samantha Laird, I’m 24 and I’m from Edinburgh but I studied in Glasgow. I’ll be competing in the Gym Instructor category at the finals.

T – I’m Thomas Gallivan, I’m 28 and I’m from Cwmbran in South Wales. I’m through to the finals in the Personal Trainer category of the competition.

C – Why do you want to work in the fitness industry?

S – I have always been active and interested in fitness/sports since a very young age. My adolescent years were taken over by athletics where I trained and competed at a high level until I unfortunately obtained a back injury which ended my athletics dream. I have tried and tested a number of different career paths but none felt right for me. Finally, I took the plunge and went back into full-time education to pursue a career in which I’m interested, that comes naturally and a career in which I can change people’s lives, whether that be in a high-level sporting context or a basic bettering of health and lifestyle.

T – I want to work in the fitness industry because training brings a lot of enjoyment to my life. As I suffer from mental health problems, I want to be able to offer the benefits training and fitness has given me to support others to get the same rewards. I have led a very insular lifestyle but whilst training this year, I have not only lost two stone, have become more disciplined and also got the opportunity to take part in my first fitness competition. Here is where I have met and integrated with so many wonderful people, which has expanded my horizons and has given me the confidence to take part in life. As my main motivation to work in the fitness industry is to support other people, I feel my achievements can impact others achieve their fitness goals.

C – Are you currently studying? If so, what?

S – Yes! I’m currently studying at City of Glasgow College and the course I am doing is HND Fitness, Health and Exercise. After completion of my HND I will be moving onto further my knowledge at university with the goal of achieving a masters degree.

T – Currently, I am learning how to start a business and studying techniques that people can not only use in the gym but outside of the gym which can bring positive changes to their lives. I am also learning up to 16 different skills over the next 16 months to go hand-in-hand with my business start-up.

Samantha Laird


C – What made you decide to enter the WorldSkills UK Fitness Trainer Competition 2016?

S – I didn’t really know about the WorldSkills competition until my lecturer asked the class if anyone would be interested in it. As soon as I knew a bit more about the competition, I thought it would be a great opportunity for me not only as an educational experience but also personal and professional -so put my name down for it and haven’t been disappointed! I definitely want to be more involved with WorldSkills in the future as I love every aspect of it!

T – My instructor Cerys Hopkins noticed my determination and after four months under her tuition, she recommended two of us from the college – my college friend Miyazim Ibryamov and I – try out for the first time representing the college. It has been a great platform to practice the skills I have learnt and the feedback I have received has been fantastic in improving my skills for the future. After each round I have competed in, it has given me the appetite to learn more and develop myself further.

C – So how have you found the experience of the competition so far?

S – So far I have found the experience really enjoyable! The support and guidance has been amazing and it also keeps me busy. During the first stage of the competition I found it both daunting and exciting as you don’t really know what to fully expect but once I passed regionals, I took on board the judges’ feedback and upped my game for the semi-finals. The next stage in the competition is now the finals at the WorldSkills show and I cannot wait to show off my knowledge and skills as well as learn a few more!

T – Taking part in this competition has energised me and has given me a zest for wellbeing that comes with personal training. The exposure to this competition has also motivated me to develop my lifestyle going forwards such as; meeting new people, improving my training skills and knowledge and starting a business where I can support others. There is nothing else that I want to do!

Learning and developing in the competition has been so rewarding and to learn from scratch and deliver something new has meant I have been on a massive journey. What makes this journey more worthwhile is having friends and colleges to share this with.

My highlight has been after my second personal training session in the competition, my session won me a special judges’ mention award and this has fuelled my passion and focus to succeed!

C – What are your career plans now and after the competition?

S – Now that I am new qualified in my level 2 gym instructor, I am hoping to get my foot in the door at a gym in the near future, but as Edinburgh is a small place I’m going to have to keep my eyes peeled for job opportunities. In the meantime, I will be continuing my studies towards my level 3 and putting a lot of energy into WorldSkills both this year and next year.

T – Although I have a degree in civil engineering, I took the life-changing decision to commit to personal training. After trying for 14 months to find placed work in the industry, I learnt very quickly that no one wanted to give me a chance due to lack of experience. This is why I have started developing my own personal training model which provides a new type of training experience not seen before, so I can start my own career that helps change people’s lives for the better. After the competition, I will use my experiences to improve my training model.

C – What impact would you like to have on the fitness industry?

S – I would love to have a positive impact on the fitness industry and I know I will have in time. My goal is to finish my education and then open a facility where young, developing athletes can attend to get the best fitness and health education, offer support i.e. how to balance school with training commitments, provide essential nutritional advice and also to provide a strength and conditioning platform that improves the strength, speed, power and boosts the athletes’ confidence and also performance.

T – As I have Asperger Syndrome, I went through my academic life under special needs, notwithstanding bullying, which these experiences have led me to want to not only help people who have been through difficult times in their lives, but to become a fitter, stronger and more confident person at the end of it and believe anything is possible.

Thomas Gallivan


C – What’s your favourite exercise to demonstrate/piece of equipment to use and why?

S – My favourite exercise to demonstrate is without a doubt Olympic bar lifts. With these lifts there is so much technique involved and there is no better feeling when you have a client who has never done a squat or a deadlift, then by the end of a session they are preforming lifts with good technique. There is also a wide range of health benefits from compound lifting such as better posture, increases strength, builds muscle and loads more!

T – The one exercise I have always loved doing is the leg press. It is an apparatus that provides proper positioning and safety where maximal weight can be used to overload the target muscle group of the quads. Also, with minimal stabilizers and assistant muscle involvement, increases emphasis on the quads itself. This limits the involvement of the glutes and hamstrings and leads to concentrated quad development. The foot plate also allows you to shift the emphasis on the leg muscles by changing foot position to achieve the maximum benefit for you.

C – And finally, what interesting fact would you want other people to know about you?

S – When I was four I made my mum take me down to the local shopping centre to see Mr Motivator! I did a two-hour workout with him and was on GMTV the next morning covered in chicken pox spots! I absolutely smashed it!

T – I want to become a trainer not only to improve my life, but the quality of life for my clients. I don’t want to be a ‘basket case’ where people treat me differently due to my condition. An interesting fact about me I would like people know is that I have had it tough where I was bullied at school and have been isolated but came out the other side smiling and with a willingness to help out. In my eyes I have already won making it this far – getting further is a bonus. All you have to do win in all forms of life is to do what you think is right and the first step to doing this is take part.

The WorldSkills UK Fitness Trainer Competition final will take place at the Skills Show, at Birmingham’s NEC in November. Book your place here.

More: Meet the finalists – Ben Flower and Terri Musson