Our National Competitions Coordinator Alex explains how taking part in our National Competitions can benefit young people, colleges, training providers and employers.

With just a few days to go until registration draws to a close, we are gearing up to deliver another a jam-packed few months of competition activity. Following the early suspension of the national cycle last year, we have been working closely with our organising partners to ensure that skills competitions can safely go ahead this year. Thanks to the ongoing support and determination of our partners, we are back and very excited to engage with a new cohort of competitors. Registrants can sign up to take part in competitions across 64 skill areas.

Our suite of competitions enables all learners the opportunity to showcase their skills in a competitive environment and we are inclusive of all abilities. There are ten Foundation Skills competitions (formerly known as Inclusive Skills competitions) aimed at SEND learners working towards Level 1 that are now fully embedded and aligned to the competition cycle and quality assurance framework.

As per previous years, our competitions have a maximum of three stages – the Passive stage, the National Qualifiers, and the National Final. The Passive stage consists of an online task used to assess the competitor’s suitability for the competition and competitors who achieve a benchmark score will progress to the National Qualifiers.

Training manager and competitor

This next stage will either take the form of an online assessment that can be carried out from anywhere or it will take place at the competitor’s place of work or education with the support of the organisation. All who take part will be assessed remotely by an expert team of judges. Successful competitors will then be invited to compete as finalists. Details of each stage will be sent out prior to the competition has taken place.

Due to the ongoing national lockdown, we wanted to put measures in place to ensure as little movement as possible. This has prompted us to make changes to the way we have traditionally ran competitions and I believe it has shaped our way of working moving forward. This remote model means that people are able access to competitions better, therefore learners from all over the UK can take part.

Our competition organising partners and judges come from education, industry and awarding bodies so understand the skill set needed in the world of work. Every stage of the journey offers a new and exciting challenge that contributes to participants’ personal and professional growth. Registering for a competition is the very first step in showing to push their personal and professional skills to the next level. Not only is there a focus on the skills needed in a particular discipline, but emphasis is also placed on softer skills and core competencies that are highly valued in any job role such as communication, problem-solving, time management and working under pressure are integral to competitions.

What are the benefits of taking part as a competitor?

Competitions offer a unique experience beyond classroom-based learning, giving participants the confidence to kick-start their careers.

Past competitors have highlighted that competing was an enjoyable experience that exceeded their expectations and had a positive impact on their overall attitude to learning or work.

Competitor applying makeup

86% of competitors reported improved technical skills, personal and employability skills. 90% of competitors cited improvement in career progression from competition experience. They are more likely to complete their courses and achieve qualification goals, be inspired to undertake positive actions including applying for a new or better job, higher-level training or continuing their competition journey as part of Squad UK. Additionally, on average, one in ten competitors returns to compete again the following year.

Beyond the competition experience, there is an alumni network that anyone who has competed can join. Skills champions support in influencing the next generation and they are our strongest ambassadors as they have been through the process. At the same time, they can enhance skills such as public speaking and networking.

Why should my college be involved in competitions?

Competitions can provide an opportunity for your institution to showcase your skills development programme and demonstrate your offer beyond the everyday teaching. Through encouraging different learning practices, in line with employers’ needs, colleges can help drive up the quality and profile of vocational education. The biggest misconception is that running competition activity alongside the curriculum means a lot of additional work and however it is all about enhancing the curriculum through a different way of learning.

The Ofsted reports shows that there is an ‘Outstanding premium’ amongst the very best colleges who enrol their young people into competitions. For staff, embedding competition activity into the curriculum offers greater scope for creativity in training and learning techniques and is a great way of continuing professional development. It is a great way to benchmark against other colleges, extending pedagogical skills and knowledge.

Girl at computer

What are the advantages of taking part as an employer or training provider?

Competitors can put their industry knowledge to the test and further learn new skills that they can bring back into the workplace. By having access to global insights and standards, competitors will be stretched to aspire to the higher-level skills necessary for individuals to compete in the national and global economy, enhancing existing processes and systems. Experience of preparing competitors for international competitions has greatly influenced our national cycle and ability to benchmark against global standards. Thousands of young people are upskilled each year, helping to meet employers’ skills needs and ultimately impacting the UK’s productivity and economic growth.

For any organisation, there are also opportunities for staff to be more involved with by becoming a judge, hosting a National Qualifier at your college, or becoming a competition organising partner.

We have been working to adapt to an ever-changing environment and we are more committed than ever to ensuring that everyone has a great competition experience. Register for competitions today and see where it takes you!

Register for our competitions by 14 May
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