As an economist who regularly evaluates various initiatives in the public space, I am always interested to know if government investments represent good value for money. I was excited when we were selected to evaluate the work of WorldSkills UK and how it creates value for the taxpayer and UK plc.
Working closely with our colleagues at WorldSkillsUK, we set about understanding in detail how their activities help learners, colleges and training providers, employers and the wider economy. We then gathered lots of data and reviewed the academic literature to get a sense of the economic impacts WorldSkills UK’s activities drive. Our work has revealed that economic value is generated through several channels. First, through the national and international competitions programme and associated training, WorldSkills UK improves the skills and confidence of young people and stimulates a high performance mindset. This affects not only those taking part in competitions themselves (competitors and trainers) but also their peers.
Second, WorldSkills UK promotes a better understanding of technical and vocational routes through events (such as WorldSkills UK LIVE) and careers advice (in person or through digital careers advice tools). These activities help to inspire young people to consider a career or further education/skills training in a technical field. Third, through research and development activities and convening work, they spread world-class standards across the UK and inform technical education and training standards.
Finally, by sharing international best practice to deliver impactful training and assessment, WorldSkills UK contributes to developing the further education workforce and drives up standards. Valuing these in cash terms is not straightforward and we had to focus on a subset of outcomes which can be monetised in order to produce return on investment estimates. These principally relate to the labour market benefits associated with higher skill levels (ie improved employability and earnings).
We conservatively estimated a return on investment for the taxpayer (from established WorldSkills UK activities) of at least £2.40 and as much as £4.50 for every pound invested, suggesting high value for money.
An even higher return is likely to be achieved by the investment in the Centre of Excellence, a relatively new initiative which builds on and is made possible by other WorldSkills UK activities such as skills competitions, was valued separately (and so is not included in the numbers above). The impact of WorldSkills UK is further evidenced by its ability to leverage private funding, for every £1 of public money it receives,.
WorldSkills UK attracts a further 89p of funding from the private sector including significant value in kind contributions.
Looking at the wider impact of WorldSkills UK, we can see that their work has the potential to influence policymaking, sector practice and amplify the international influence of WorldSkills UK. By being a key member of the WorldSkills network, WorldSkills UK is able to raise the profile and prestige of UK skills, possibly enhancing export potential of education products and encouraging investment into the UK. In summary, our work shows that WorldSkills UK delivers high value for money for the UK taxpayer and as such there is a strong case for continued support for the organisation by the government.