Building a diverse and highly-skilled workforce for the future

By Dr Neil Bentley, CEO, WorldSkills UK on

From the 15-17 at the NEC in Birmingham, WorldSkills UK LIVE will open its doors to the brightest and best apprentices and learners. This is the UK’s largest skills, apprenticeships and careers event and is also home to the National Finals of the WorldSkills UK Competitions. Our top competitors from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will come together to showcase their skills, each hoping to be named the UK champion in their chosen skill.

As well as this exciting race for gold, WorldSkills UK LIVE also brings together industry leaders across four important sectors, along with over 70,000 young people. The event is a fantastic opportunity for FE colleges to introduce their students to the wealth of career paths awaiting them. It’s also a chance for colleges to show school students the benefits of further education and the exciting range of qualifications and training on offer.

This year, WorldSkills UK LIVE comes shortly after the prestigious EuroSkills Budapest competition. Team UK – made up of 22 exceptional apprentices and learners from across the UK – secured ninth place out of 28 competing countries, bringing home 11 medals. Off the back of this phenomenal success, I’m excited to see the latest round of UK competitors this November as they compete for a place to join the training programme for WorldSkills Shanghai 2021.

Building the skilled workforce the UK needs

Following on from Team UK’s success at EuroSkills Budapest, I firmly believe skills competitions are key to helping develop the UK’s future workforce. They bring together businesses, education and governments to upskill young people across the UK so they are ready to take on the employment challenges of the future.

However, we can only support a truly innovative and productive workforce if we are offering young people from all backgrounds the opportunity to shine. In the past, our competition teams have not been as inclusive as we would have liked, and this is something I am determined to change.

I believe that by increasing the diversity of our skills competitions, we can create role models who better reflect our society and inspire more young people to follow in their footsteps. This will also help us to encourage a wider take-up of apprenticeships and technical education among young people and in turn ensure employers have a wide-ranging, diverse talent pool from which to choose.

I’m proud to say that we are making concrete steps to address these challenges in our skills competitions. At WorldSkills UK LIVE, we will be launching a set of programmes to open up the opportunity to compete to as many people as possible, especially traditionally underrepresented groups.

The Raising Our BAME programme is aimed at increasing the number of competitors from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. We are also working with Semta and the CITB to increase the number of young women attending the event, with a particular focus on engaging them in Construction and Engineering disciplines. You can find out more about these initiatives and how to get involved here.

We know from first-hand experience that skills competitions accelerate the development of those taking part, helping them to achieve greater technical excellence in their chosen skill. More than just honing their technical skills, the competitions help learners develop the resilience and confidence to go further in their careers. We want to be sure that every young person can feel the benefit of our competitions.

We also want to encourage inspirational professionals to work with us to train and support our competitors. We’ve recently launched our 2018 Local Heroes Awards, allowing people to celebrate the dedicated people who have gone the extra mile for competitors. You can find out more about the Awards and how to nominate your Local Hero here.

What to expect at WorldSkills UK LIVE

All attendees – including those participating in these programmes – will have the chance to explore all four key sectors that help drive our economy: Construction & Infrastructure; Health, Hospitality & Lifestyle; Digital, Business & Creative; and Engineering & Technology. Our ‘Have a Go’ areas will let them gets hands-on with exciting new skills and they’ll also be able to talk with careers advisors and potential employers about their future careers.

A particular highlight of this year’s event is our ‘Future Tech’ zone, demonstrating the latest in virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence, bringing together forward-thinking businesses and organisations to discuss how this is changing the UK’s careers landscape.

Quite rightly, we are focusing on the future at WorldSkills UK LIVE 2018. Despite several uncertainties on the horizon, I’m confident that the work we are doing with all our partners across the skills sector to upskill and inspire the next generation will have a significant positive impact on the workforce of the future. By focusing on the exciting new technologies that are shaping the world around us – and by ensuring a diverse and innovative pipeline of talent – we can help increase productivity and drive the UK forward to success.

General registration is now closed for Thursday 15 November and places are going fast for Friday 16 November, but there’s still a chance to visit the event on Saturday 17 November. Book your space at the event here.

For more information on our skills competitions and to register your college’s interest, click here.