On 2 March, we launched the 2020 National Competition cycle. WorldSkills UK Competitions are open, and they are accessible to learners of all abilities. Our suite of Inclusive Skills Competitions enables young people with disabilities and learning difficulties the opportunity to showcase their skills in a competitive environment. This year, we are delivering ten competitions for special educational needs (SEN) learners that are now fully embedded and aligned to the competition cycle and quality assurance framework. These are:

  • Catering
  • Digital Media Production
  • Fitness Assistant
  • Hairdressing
  • Health & Social Care
  • Horticulture
  • IT Software Solutions for Business
  • Motor Vehicle
  • Restaurant Service
  • Woodworking

These competitions have been designed to give students a unique experience beyond the classroom, to push them outside of their comfort zones and give them the confidence to kick-start their careers. In partnership with our competition organisers, we have identified realistic, potential employment opportunities for young people with SEN across a range of sectors. The tasks that competitors will be asked to partake in, focus on real-life preparation for work in the above skill areas.

Over the past year, the employment rate for people with disabilities has risen faster than the employment rate for people without disabilities and the disability employment gap has reduced by 1.6 percentage points. There are 930,000 more disabled people in work today than five years ago.

However, people with disabilities or learning difficulties still face barriers to employment. These barriers include employers not understanding how to best support their specific needs and a lack of knowledge on how to further develop their skills. Inclusive Skills Competitions give learners a platform to display what they can do, whilst developing their wider employability skills and inspiring growing independence. With the right preparation and guidance, SEN learners can sustain paid employment in their chosen field. We also aim to boost their employment confidence by helping them to identify support systems that they might need in a professional environment in order to realise their potential.

Once registered, the learners will embark on their competition journey. For some skills, competitors will be invited to compete at a National Qualifier before progressing to the National Final at WorldSkills UK LIVE in November for the ultimate competition experience. Every stage presents a new and exciting challenge. Supporters can watch their young person flourish whilst demonstrating their skills alongside other competitors in front of hundreds of visitors at the NEC in Birmingham.

At the end of the day, an Inclusive Skills Awards Ceremony is held, a personal highlight of mine. It is a culmination of all the competitors’ hard work, where we can recognise their achievements and celebrate excellence. There is always such a great energy in the room and the competitors truly enjoy being in the spotlight.

But their journey doesn’t end there! This is just the beginning. Competing will equip them with the tools they need to secure a fulfilling job after their college course or training programme. It can also be a stepping stone to taking part in a competition at a higher level or even becoming a Skills Champion, inspiring others to follow in their footsteps. Inclusive Skills are now fully integrated into the competition’s portfolio and the fabric of WorldSkills UK.

New research published by The Social Innovation Partnership (TSIP) recommended how we can increase diversity and inclusion in our competitions. As an organisation, we are more committed than ever to promoting inclusiveness and diversity in all its forms and giving everyone a chance to shine.

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