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Pressing rewind on a year full of achievements

Friday, 22 Sep 2017

Dr Neil Bentley, Chief Executive, WorldSkills UK

At WorldSkills UK our ethos is all about looking ahead. That’s why underneath our logo there are three words: Go Further, Faster. It informs everything we do and reflects everything we stand for: at our core we are an accelerator for young people to help them achieve their potential in work and life. And this time of year is one where we are particularly looking forward: Team UK are now making their final preparations before flying out to Abu Dhabi for the ‘skills Olympics’ next month and November plays host to the jewel in our crown: The Skills Show - the national finals of our skills competitions and the UK's largest apprenticeships, skills and careers event.

In the midst of all this anticipation we are publishing our look back on the past year. Even for fast-paced, forward thinking organisations like ours, it’s essential to take stock of where we’ve been and how that is shaping where we’re going. Rewind is our look back on 2016/17.

2016/17 is a year we can reflect on with a lot of pride. Pride in what the young people we work with achieved, pride in the strengthening of our reputation for promoting apprenticeships and technical education and pride in the steps we have taken to put diversity far higher on our list of priorities than it’s ever been. 2016/17 was also the year we reorganised our work around three core programmes:

Directions – delivering inspiring careers advice through events and role models

Champions – driving up technical and employability standards – and showcasing these at regional, national and international levels through skills competitions

Accelerate – developing new commercial products to enhance young people’s skills and careers development

Through streamlining our work in this way, we can better respond to the opportunities out there for young people and ensure we’re delivering on those opportunities.

Flicking through Rewind [hyperlink] brought home what a busy and action packed year it was. In the Directions programme we launched what Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton has called our ‘incredibly powerful’ peer-to-peer role modelling: inspiring and informing young people about the worlds of apprenticeships and technical education. This has so far involved over 60 former skills competitors inspiring over 4,500 young people in more than 115 schools and colleges in England. The focal point of Champions is the UK national finals at The Skills Show; last year over 3,000 young people entered the national competition cycle and over 500 young people made it through the heats to compete for medals in 59 skills across three action packed days – this has to be seen to be believed and I encourage you to do so at this year’s Show, where we expect over 75,000 visitors! We also achieved our best ever result at EuroSkills Gothenburg 2016, with 16 medals or Medallions of Excellence – a 75% success rate.  Our horizon stretching Accelerate programme swung into action with projects underway to develop new ways of embedding competitions activity into apprenticeship delivery and increasing employer engagement. Exciting new products are also in development - watch this space for more on this!

Like all charitable organisations, WorldSkills UK is adept at doing more with less – our public grant reduced by 13% between 2015/16 and 2016/17. We spent 96p in every £1 of core grant funding on delivery of our charitable objectives and made over £2m of efficiency savings. Value for money informs everything we do. Whilst 60% of our income comes from our grant, the other 40% is from commercial sources. It’s a strong balance and one we are focused on strengthening with our new five-year business plan attuning us more sharply to growth in our commercial income.

So, a lot done and a lot more to do. 2016/17 was a highly successful year for our work but 2017/18 can be even better. We are going to make this happen through innovative approaches, including:

  • Building new models of skills competitions so they are a stronger element of apprenticeships, technical education and world class standards and reach more young people and employers.
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  • Growing initiatives that enable us to accelerate the careers and skills of a more diverse and inclusive range of young people and impact social mobility.
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  • Improving our impact measurements so that we can better assess our value and improve our services.

That is the WorldSkills UK way. Always looking ahead and putting young people first. With WorldSkills Abu Dhabi and The Skills Show coming up in the space of a month there is so much to look forward to!

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