Parisa Shirazi, Head of Skills Development and International Competition, explains how our newly launched WorldSkills UK Centre of Excellence, in partnership with NCFE, will lead the way in developing a world-class skills system and provide young people from all backgrounds with the best chance of success.

This week marks a big step in our journey to mainstreaming world-class excellence as part of the Centre of Excellence, in partnership with NCFE. I am so pleased to welcome the 20 colleges joining the first phase of the pilot where our team of dedicated high-performance skills coaches will drive forward a knowledge and skills transfer programme. This will equip hundreds of teaching staff across the country with the know-how to embed international best practice to promote and advance technical learning with a re-focus on excellence rather than competence; raising the bar and increasing aspirations in students and apprentices to achieve higher standards in their training and development, to provide them with the competitive edge employers are seeking.

Creating a space for young people to thrive

We see the real value and difference high-performance coaching has in the development of young people’s technical skills, behaviours and attitude through our talent development programme. The pilot will draw on these characteristics of developing excellence in young people by equipping educators with the right ideas, practices and tools to create powerful and engaging learning environments. This is so important as we aim to better the opportunities of not a hundred young people, but over 40,000! Our commitment as an organisation and determination as a team is driven by this ambition, by making a tangible difference to the lives of our future workforce.

Phase one of the pilot

This summer we had a tremendous response with over 50 applications representing a quarter of Further Education colleges across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who applied to be part of the Centre of Excellence. This was so refreshing to see, that despite the challenges facing Further Education, there was still an incredible appetite in the sector to drive excellence in technical education. In our response, we will be launching an Innovation Network so more colleges can get involved with our work ahead of the application window opening again next year. Recruitment will begin the spring 2021 for the following academic year.

A focus on social mobility

Following research we commissioned from The Social Innovation Partnership (TSIP) we know we have a role to play in tackling diversity and inclusion, and therefore one of our focusses during the shortlisting of colleges was to prioritise those in areas of social and economic disadvantage to help boost career aspirations and social mobility for all. It is our ambition that over the next three years we will lead the way in developing a world-class skills system and tackle vocational snobbery, ensuring we can provide young people from all backgrounds with the best chance of success through the provision of enhanced education and training.

Looking back

The Centre of Excellence pilot was developed following research conducted by SKOPE, part of The University of Oxford and WorldSkills UK, the report concluded that through our network of Training Managers and access to international best practice, WorldSkills UK is uniquely positioned to inform UK skills systems. It is great to see over 12 months on since we launched the report, in partnership with NCFE we are making good progress in adopting the recommendations to underpin the Centre of Excellence pilot.

Moving forward
Looking forward to January 2021 when we begin delivering the train the trainer programme, we have a busy few months ahead to meet and welcome 100 educators enrolled in the first year and we are working towards finalising the development of the train the trainer programme with feedback sessions planned with our team of Training Managers and community of educators.

We will also be scoping our impact and evaluation framework in order to measure the effectiveness of methods and we will be testing these with colleges to better understand the most effective means of disseminating and mainstreaming excellence across UK skills systems over the course of the pilot.

Production also begins next month to film a collection of short videos for educators across a range of curriculum areas. These will raise capacity in developing technical excellence in young people by drawing on our world-class expertise of international standards of best practice. The videos will be launched towards the end of the year.

I hope you continue to follow our journey to see the impact and difference we are making in mainstreaming excellence. 

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