From 2,000 miles away here in Kazan, Russia, I would like to congratulate all those students receiving their GCSE results today. We are out here at the skills Olympics with Team UK, 37 young women and men who are the best our country has to offer across a range of technical skill disciplines incorporating everything from aircraft maintenance, carpentry, cloud computing, electrical installation, mechanical engineering and many others!

Not too long ago, the members of Team UK were in the same boat as the thousands of students picking up their results today. So for every 16-year-old today with their GCSEs and thinking about what comes next I’d like to invite them to seriously consider getting involved with our skills competitions. Whether you want to be a games designer, a cyber security expert, a plumber, cook, mechanical engineer or landscape gardener there is a competition for you and you could be, in a few years’ time, following in the footsteps of the 37 young people out here in Russia right now. Whatever your GCSE results, you can fulfill your potential through an apprenticeship or a technical skills qualification – and you have the unique opportunity to represent your country with us at the same time.

I’d encourage everyone to follow the extensive coverage we’ll be providing from Kazan over the next few days, including online and for the first time this year on Sky TV. This is a huge, global event, and the Team UK of tomorrow will be drawn from the GCSE students of today. And if that wasn’t enough, in November we hold the UK’s biggest and best careers and skills event – WorldSkills UK LIVE – at the NEC in Birmingham. Here you can see the national finals of 50 different skills competitions, speak to members of Team UK and with a host of major employers to get a sense of what they are looking for from young people entering the workplace.

Their answers may come as a surprise. I know at this time of year much focus is put on the relative virtues of whether GCSE students should be thinking about moving onto A-levels or apprenticeships and technical qualifications. And I’m all too equally aware that historically much of the focus has been on encouraging young people to aim for university as the best route for getting a good job in the future. Members of Team UK, many with excellent GCSE results themselves, tell me how they felt they were pushed towards the university route even though their passion was for the technical skills they’re now competing in this week.

They are living proof that you don’t need to go to university to be a success in life. Moreover, the results of some survey work we did with employers earlier in the year underline this. For the employers we spoke to, only 3% rated a university degree as being amongst their top requirements for a young person entering the workplace. Instead, they prioritised attributes such as great inter-personal skills (72%), lots of ambition (68%) and relevant work experience (49%). These are all characteristics shared by members of Team UK – and they are the kinds of traits that can be developed through getting involved in our skills competitions.

Whether it’s GCSE students getting their results today or Team UK waiting to see whether they’ve medalled after the competitions end next Tuesday, I think we should all take time to praise our young people for the hard work they put in year-round. For Team UK, the hard work continues over the next few days; for GCSE students a well-deserved few days of rest, and I hope, celebration is in store. I hope many of you will join us in cheering on Team UK from afar and as you do, picture yourselves following in their footsteps in just a few years’ time. At WorldSkills UK, we’d be delighted to work with you to achieve your dreams and potential. Because for us, when you succeed, we all succeed.

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