Evidence shows that world-class skills systems, underpinned by robust standards, drive economic growth through improved productivity and inward investment. The TVET route is starting to receive increasing government attention in the UK; the government’s recent Skills for Jobs White Paper for England underlines policymakers’ recognition of ensuring skills development is front and centre in education and training policy and economic strategy. However, around the world, the most successful skills systems are underpinned by a well-supported, respected, and trained technical teaching workforce with structures in place to ensure the delivery of world-class technical education and training.
Excellence in TVET has existed in skills systems around the world for many decades; economic prosperity has depended on it. However, research has shown that such excellence often is embedded in pockets: at different levels within stratified skills systems (apprentices, for example, in India, Austria, and the United Kingdom); or in specific industries. There is clearly a need to share models of best practice across contexts and systems at an international level. This report, therefore, presents findings from a comparative research project examining the mechanisms and drivers of technical excellence in seven skills systems around the world.
The report highlights the close relationship between world-class teaching and training standards in skills systems and enhanced productivity and economic growth. This illustrates the ways in which the most successful skills systems should be thought of as healthy and connected eco-systems with excellence and standards embedded at all levels, from policy structures (macro), through institutional relationships between employers and training centres (meso), to CPD support and funding and individual teaching practice (micro).
Building a high-quality skills base has a well-documented, positive impact on learners, employers, and the economy. The policies of all UK governments echo the report’s call to explicitly link skills development with the needs of employers and the economy.
The report highlights the unique and crucial role WorldSkills plays in different countries creating a ‘third space’ that allows for innovation, development and benchmarking, not found elsewhere.”
The study found that, across the seven case study countries, WorldSkills can play a critical role in driving excellence within national skills systems. Firstly, it supports the development of international benchmarks, that ensure standards in skills systems are at a world-class level. Secondly, skills competitions and the associated training provided a ‘third space’ for trainers and trainees to experiment with innovative pedagogic approaches and practices and so respond to the latest technologies, industry developments, and emergent skills demands in an agile manner.
The study, therefore, explicitly highlights how a successful skills system comprises a range of close relationships and dynamics between system-level policies, productivity and economic growth, industry needs, employer perspectives, technological developments, local organisations and training providers, and individual teaching practice, with WorldSkills acting as a bridging mechanism across different levels of the system and across different spaces. This illustrates the ways in which the most successful skills systems combine multilevel and multi-spatial dynamics with policy and practice cutting across local, national and international dimensions and multiple organisations.
This highlights the need for reconfiguring policy language around productivity to emphasise a skills economy. This provides a critical reorientation that moves away from the dominance of knowledge economy thinking and takes into account the relationship between productivity and the shifting dynamics between skills supply and demand, the changing nature of work, spatial dynamics, and local economic variance.