In partnership with Airbus, WorldSkills UK are hosting an event at this year’s Labour Party Conference. Panellists will discuss the importance of world-class skills to rebuilding the UK’s industrial foundations and securing economic success. Join the discussion on how technical education can help the UK take the lead in new industries and deliver good jobs and growth in every part of the country. 

Attendees will:

  • Discuss the Labour Party’s plans for technical education and apprenticeships
  • Identify the sectors and industries that can power the UK’s economic performance and deliver high-quality secure jobs accessible to all
  • Promote the importance of world-class skills to economic competitiveness, resilient growth and the journey to net zero

Meet the speakers

Ben Blackledge

WorldSkills UK CEO

Ben brings a wealth of experience to his role, having worked in senior policy positions in  government before joining WorldSkills UK in 2014 and becoming Deputy Chief Executive in 2019.

He combines a deep understanding of the UK and International skills landscape and its importance to UK competitiveness with a commitment to ensuring that young people have access to the best possible opportunities to develop their skills and reach their full potential.

An independent member of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education’s (IFATE’s) Assessment Panel. He also sits on the WorldSkills International Competition Working Group and is part of the Board of WorldSkills Europe, ensuring the UK is at the forefront of global developments in skills training.

Oriel Petry

SVP Head of Public Affairs UK, Airbus

Oriel is the SVP Head of Public Affairs UK at Airbus. She has previously worked as the Director for UK Trade and Investment (now Department for International Trade) France at the British Embassy in Paris from August 2015 to August 2019. Prior to this role, she has had a varied career across Whitehall as a British civil servant.

Sander Kristel

Interim Chief Executive, UCAS

Sander Kristel joined UCAS Media in February 2018, before taking up the role of Chief Operations Officer in May 2020, and most recently Interim Chief Executive in September 2023. He has a diverse background in banking, the hospitality industry, and in one of the largest education providers in his native Netherlands.

He has previously worked for the internet provider Freeserve, before moving into the public sector. Prior to starting in UCAS Media, he was the Director of Adult Services at Worcestershire County Council, where he led 1,500 staff, and managed a budget of £184m. Before that, he worked for the Council as their Director of Commercial and Change, leading on large contracts, transformation, marketing, and other services. Sander’s previous roles have included digital, technology, transformation, and commercial.

Irena Grugulis

Chair in Work and Skills, Leeds University Business School

Irena Grugulis is the Chair in Work and Skills at Leeds University Business School, an AIM/ESRC Service Fellow, and an associate fellow of SKOPE. Her research focuses on skill and has been funded by the ESRC, the EPSRC and the EU. She has published widely and is the joint Managing Editor of Work, Employment and Society. Recent books include Skills, Training and Human Resource Development; Retail Work (edited with Ödül Bozkurt) and The Skills that Matter (edited with Chris Warhurst and Ewart Keep). Policy work includes contributions to the National Skills Taskforce, the Leitch Review and BERR as well as two years on the UKCES expert panel.

Lynne Matthews

Talent and Workforce Development Specialist, Nuclear New Build, EDF Energy

Lynne has vast experience working in the utilities industry nationally and globally engaging with key stakeholders in government and industry. Her experience includes socio economic development relating to supply chain and skills for major nuclear infrastructure projects. Having recently held position as Director of the UK Nuclear Sector Deal Project Management Office she contributed to the recommendations made on capability and capacity as part of the Great British Nuclear sprint team. Other positions include being a member of the Nuclear Skills Strategy Group Next Generation Group, and the Strategic Advisory Group for the sector wide campaign Destination Nuclear. With EDF she focuses on workforce develop strategy to deliver the right skills for Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C.

WorldSkills UK are also hosting an event at Conservative Party Conference. Click here for more details.

If you are attending this year’s party conferences and would like to connect with WorldSkills UK, please contact Aaron Revel, Senior Policy & Public Affairs Manager via

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