Today we have announced Team UK and the preparations for WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017 begin in earnest. It’s a hugely exciting time for all of us at WorldSkills UK and particularly for the young women and men who will be representing their country this October. Team UK is the pinnacle of the British skills system: cooks, engineers, games designers and welders who have proven themselves the best in the UK and who will now be going for gold to be the best in the world.
Getting a place on Team UK is no fluke: local and regional heats, national finals, European finals and team selection represent months of dedication and sheer hard graft. We are confident that the apprentices and students who make up Team have what it takes to win medals. They have a tough act to follow after our remarkable success in Sao Paulo two years ago where we finished seventh overall ahead of France and Germany.
When we arrive at Abu Dhabi in the autumn we will be joining over 70 other nations at the biggest skills event in the world, including China, India, South Korea, Brazil, Japan and Russia. Every nation has one goal: to win – and the competition is fierce. WorldSkills Abu Dhabi will be a microcosm of the challenges the UK faces as a trading nation competing on a global stage. We have to be up to the challenge and global in our outlook. Brexit necessitates this approach, as the Prime Minster has recognised in her vision for a Global Britain. Our own contribution to this is through developing young people who have global fluency. This means a world-class skills set and mindset. The more young people equipped with this, the better for British business.
As we said in our recent response to the Government’s Industrial Strategy: ‘A post-Brexit UK will need to ensure that its skills base has the depth and quality to compete globally, attract inward investment and boost trade. The only way we will get there is by ensuring our young people have the training and career opportunities they need to become the productive workforce of the future’. Skills competitions and the high quality standards they demand are one of the key ways in which we are nurturing our home-grown talent. Abu Dhabi represents a huge opportunity for Team UK to win medals. It also represents a huge opportunity for the UK as a trading nation. The Middle East is a key region where the demand for investment opportunities is strong and the UK’s pitch is highly persuasive. In 2015 we signed a bilateral trade deal with the UAE with the aim of hitting £25bn by 2020. I don’t think there can be a better way of demonstrating to UAE businesses that the UK is their go-to destination for trade and investment than a successful Team UK winning medals and showcasing our young people’s skills.