The Education Secretary made a really important speech at this year’s Business and Education Summit organised by the British Chambers of Commerce. In calling for a skills revolution she laid down a challenge to us all to come together and do our bit. We’re up for it and WorldSkills UK – as an existing partnership between government, business and education – is ideally placed to make a significant contribution.
If, in Justine Greening’s words, we are to ‘create an army of skilled young people’, we need something that inspires young people to choose skills. We do this and it works: in The Skills Show we have the biggest, best and most exciting celebration of skills there is in the UK. Young people, their parents and teachers agree. Nine in 10 young people say they enjoy it and would recommend to a friend. Most who attend take part in one of the dozens of hands-on Have a Go activities where they find out what they’re good at and uniquely, alongside that, watch other young people competing in the very same skills in the National Finals of our skills competitions. As the Secretary of State recognises, we’ve got a lot to do on technical education but the stats from the Show point in the right direction. Young people’s knowledge of technical education increased by 30% from before attending to three months afterwards, placing an apprenticeship or technical career that much higher on their list of life choices.
The Secretary of State is also spot on when she says: ‘And because we need to beat countries with the best technical education – countries like Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway – we need to invest in more hours of skills training, in better quality skills training, to rival their offers’. We do this too: WorldSkills UK has a track record of achieving world-class quality in the shape of our brilliant competitors and experts forming Team UK as they prepare to compete at WorldSkills Abu Dhabi in the autumn against 75 other countries. At WorldSkills Sao Paulo 2015 we did exactly what the Secretary of State is calling for. Taking on and beating the best with a seventh-placed finish in the world – ahead of countries like France and Germany – and our best ever medals haul.
And the positive knock-on effects of Team UK success are good for the skills sector, for employers and for future generations. It’s why the best training providers, colleges and employers work with us – using our competition methodology to drive up standards, inspire more young people, boost professional development and stimulate innovation in teaching and learning. It’s why our former competitors do incredibly well in their careers – because they have the skills set and mind set employers want, while some get the entrepreneurial bug and start up their own businesses. It’s also why so many of these inspirational young role models want to help others and work with us to go into schools – in partnership with the Careers & Enterprise Company – to give direct, peer-to-peer careers advice to thousands of other young people. The results are impressive: 76% of students said hearing from a Skills Champion has made them feel inspired and motivated, with a further 76% saying they now know more about technical skills based careers than before.
The Secretary of State was right to point to the important role that nurturing home-grown skills can play in ensuring we’re ‘Brexit ready’. I also believe skills can do much to enhance our status as a trading nation. If we’re to thrive outside of the EU, we will need to attract significant inward investment. Skills are a key factor in helping persuade foreign governments and firms to do business here. If the UK can get the skills revolution right, we can lead the world in global trade and through WorldSkills we have an existing platform to showcase our skills on the world stage, helping make British skills a byword for world-class.
So yes, WorldSkills UK is fully signed up to the skills revolution and creating a skills army. All armies are made up of dedicated platoons and ours is young, strong, motivated and ready to be deployed!