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Success at the Skills Olympics

24 October 2017

Last week saw Team UK take on the world in the ‘Skills Olympics’, or WorldSkills as they are officially known. The competition, held every two years, sees young people from across the globe competing in skills such as aircraft maintenance, cooking, web design and beauty. The 34 apprentices and trainees in Team UK came back with a medal haul of 20, placing the UK 10th in the world, out of 59 countries. In the UK, the competitions are overseen by WorldSkills UK. Its aim is to drive up technical and employability standards and to showcase these at regional, national and global levels through skills competitions. It also delivers inspiring careers advice through events such as the Skills Show and through the role models of our young Skills Champions who have succeeded in skills competitions. WorldSkills UK is a partnership of employers, education and government, and one in which colleges play a key role. The positive impact and benefits for all these partners are clear. International competitions are focused on higher level technical skills. The gap in skills at these levels is a widely acknowledged problem in this country. WorldSkills’ competition standards are genuinely and verifiably world class. They have been used to inform apprenticeship standards and there is real opportunity for T level standards to be aligned also. Students, colleges and employers benefit enormously from skills competitions. Engaging in competitions ensures that staff and students really do understand what world class means. They have the opportunity to learn with and from the best in the world across a wide range of technical skills. The impact on individual students who take part is profound, and those students provide role models for more aspiration in technical education. Winning medals and becoming a national or world champion in your skill does much to raise the prestige of technical skills and careers. WorldSkills champions really do inspire others. For staff there can be no better CPD for keeping up with industry standards. For business the benefits are all about raising the standards of skills to achieve premium products and services in order to have a direct impact on business success. World class skills improve the quality, efficiency and productivity of business, thus encouraging inward investment. Whether you are a small business that is part of a supply chain or a large multi-national considering where to locate your business infrastructure, the supply of skills will be key to success. A strategy that supports genuine world class skills requires trainers and educators who see and understand what world class looks like; who can learn with and from the best in the rest of the world, and can take those standards back into the business. For Government, WorldSkills UK is another tool in their kit for building a world class technical education system, and for showcasing this to the rest of the world. It signals how much we value technical skills and perhaps most importantly demonstrates the prestige we accord to these skills and to our young people who follow these technical career paths. The Skills Show, taking place in Birmingham on 16-18 November, provides the next big opportunity to showcase the positive impact of skills competitions. The national competition finals are a great opportunity for young people, teachers and parents to experience the opportunities that technical education provides. I look forward to seeing you there. Carole Stott MBE is the Chair of both the Association of Colleges and WorldSkills UK