As a thousand young people competed in 15 countries in 61 different skills disciplines, this hybrid event in central Cardiff on Friday 4 November 2022, focussed on the vital importance of skills excellence.

A range of industry experts shared their perspective and considered the vital role of WorldSkills International and WorldSkills UK in driving the highest international skills standards to benefit young people, employers and the economy.

Watch the full symposium below.

Session 1

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Session 2

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Session 3

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Event agenda



Mike James, Principal Cardiff and Vale College opened by sharing a video of the WorldSkills Competition 2022 Special Edition featuring clips of Team UK competitors.


Welcome address

Minister for the Economy, Vaughan Gething MS


World class skills in action – a global perspective

Hosted by Shane Mann, Managing Director Lsect, with contributions from:

  • David Hoey, WorldSkills International CEO
  • Haydn Jakes MBE, Gold medallist in aircraft maintenance at WorldSkills Kazan 2019
  • Aurelia Ruetsch, Deputy CEO, WorldSkills France

Coffee break


The importance of developing a skills economy across the UK

With contributions from:

  • Professor Susan James Relly, SKOPE at the University of Oxford
  • Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE, Chief Executive WorldSkills UK
  • Peter Mucklow, Director Apprenticeships, Department for Education
  • Heather Cousins, Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland

Skills excellence in Wales

With contributions from:

  • Mike James Chief Executive Officer, Cardiff and Vale Colleges
  • Samantha Huckle, Head of Apprenticeships, Welsh Government
  • Barry Liles OBE, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Skills & Lifelong Learning)
  • Kyle Woodward, former International Competitor

Close of event

Marion Plant, Chair WorldSkills UK

Meet the speakers

The event was chaired by Shane Mann, Managing Director of Lsect and featuring a range of panellists:

Minister for the Economy, Vaughan Gething MS

Vaughan was born in Zambia and brought up in Dorset. He was educated at Aberystwyth and Cardiff universities. Vaughan was a solicitor and former partner at Thompsons. He is a member of the GMB, UNISON and Unite unions, and was the youngest ever President of the Wales TUC. He has previously served as a county councillor, school governor and community service volunteer – supporting and caring for a student with cerebral palsy. Vaughan is also a former president of NUS Wales. Between 1999 and 2001, Vaughan worked as a researcher to former AMs Val Feld and Lorraine Barrett and between 2001 and 2003, was the chair of Right to Vote – a cross-party project to encourage greater participation from black minority ethnic communities in Welsh public life. He is also a current member of the Co-operative Party.

Peter Mucklow, Director Apprenticeships, Department for Education

peter mucklow

In his role of Official Delegate, Peter Mucklow is responsible for representing the UK within WorldSkills and WorldSkills Europe and also supports and strengthens the partnership between WorldSkills UK and UK Government.

Haydn Jakes MBE - Gold medallist in aircraft maintenance at WorldSkills Kazan 2019

Haydn began competing in WorldSkills UK National Competitions during the last year of his apprenticeship at Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group. He beat the UK’s top aeronautical engineering apprentices to win a silver medal at WorldSkills UK LIVE in 2017 and went on to win a gold medal on the international stage at WorldSkills Kazan 2019.

Hayd now works for the RAF whilst continuing to study, and also serves as an Assistant Training Manager in Aircraft Maintenance for WorldSkills UK.

Aurelia Ruetsch, Director of International Relations, WorldSkills France

Aurelia Ruetsch is a major events professional with over 15 years’ experience in project design, planning and delivery, and life from Games to Games across the world.Specialized in international relations, hospitality/VIPs and protocol, she has an extensive track record in a wide range of sporting events – from the most prestigious, to the unprecedented, and the original. She is also an inspirational speaker for sport management programs and has co-authored a book on major sports events. Balancing event practice and cultural anecdotes with industry theories she provides a colorful, insightful and useful reality check to audiences. Presently Director of International Relations for WorldSkills France, she was part of the bid team that won in 2019 the right host the global WorldSkills Competition 2024 in Lyon, France, the world’s most prestigious international skills excellence competition. She is now looking to make the vision for WorldSkills Lyon 2024 come true and to open un a new chapter for WorldSkills France.

Professor Susan James Relly, SKOPE at the University of Oxford

Dr Susan James Relly is a leading academic focused on vocational education, further education and work-based learning. Dr Susan James Relly is a leading academic focused on vocational education, further education and work-based learning. She is the Director of Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance (SKOPE) research centre at the University of Oxford where is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Education, and a Governing Body Fellow at Green Templeton College. She has a B.Ed from her native country Australia, and a M.Sc in Comparative and International Education and a D.Phil in Education from the University of Oxford. She has taught in secondary schools and serves as the Associate Head (Education) of the Social Sciences Division at the University of Oxford.

Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE, Chief Executive WorldSkills UK

Neil Bentley-Gockmann

Neil joined WorldSkills UK as CEO in 2015 and under his tenure, the organisation has grown and developed to focus on how international benchmarking from the global WorldSkills network in over 80 countries can be harnessed to drive up standards in skills development across the UK.

Neil was previously Deputy Director-General and Chief Operating Officer at the CBI, the UK’s premier business organisation, where he worked for 12 years at the highest level of the business and government interface nationally and internationally on issues such as trade and investment, diversity, skills and employment, public services reform, climate change and infrastructure development.

Neil is a trustee of the Whitehall and Industry Group, a member of the advisory council for the IPA employment think tank and the independent member of the Social Inclusion Committee at Warwick University. He was also the former CEO of OUTstanding, a business network for LGBT leaders and their allies, and former deputy chair of Stonewall, the LGBT equality charity. He holds a PhD in race equality in the workplace and was awarded an OBE for services to diversity and inclusion in the 2019 New Year’s Honours List. In 2019, Neil was also awarded an honorary doctorate by Middlesex University for services to STEM education.

Heather Cousins, Deputy Secretary Skills and Education Group, Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland

Heather holds the post of Deputy Secretary, Skills and Education Group in the Department for the Economy.  The group has policy and finance responsibility for Higher Education (including Student Finance), for Further Education Colleges, for Apprenticeships and Youth Training Programmes, for bespoke employer skills interventions and for the development of a Skills Strategy for Northern Ireland.  Heather’s previous post in the Department for the Economy was Deputy Secretary, Higher Education and Investment Group which included responsibility for financial management and governance as well and policy and finance for Higher Education.

Heather was Deputy Secretary, Resources in the Department for Employment and Learning from September 2013 to 2016.   Prior to this Heather held various posts in the Department for Social Development from 2003 to 2013, including Deputy Secretary, Resources and Social Policy Group, Director of Housing and Director of Financial Management and Planning in the Social Security Agency.

Heather is a qualified member of CIPFA (the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy) with over 20 years of post qualification financial management experience and has served on the Institute’s Council, Financial Management Panel and Governments Board.  Heather was appointed to the Court of the University of Glasgow in 2014, serves on various university committees and is Chair of the Audit Committee.

Mike James, Principal and CEO Cardiff and Vale College

Mike James is an engineer by background and now Chief Executive of Cardiff and Vale College Group. He has over 23 years of experience in the FE sector, including holding senior posts in both Bristol and a major London College prior to Cardiff.

Samantha Huckle, Head of Employability and Skills at Welsh Government

Samantha has over 15 years’ experience of leading the delivery of successful change programmes and projects for Welsh Government.

Samantha’s early career focused on auditing practice and overseeing self-assessment plans for the European Foundation for the Quality Management (EFQM) model and continuous improvement methods. Then expanding into progamme management and operational delivery profession.  Initially, on European Programmes building consensus around policy and programme delivery whilst maintaining links with the EU Commission and other nations via programmes such as Leonardo, Erasmus and Interreg and later then around Welsh Government’s NEETS, Economic Inactivity and unemployment programmes.

During 2010-2018, Samantha was responsible for Apprenticeship programme developments in Wales.  In 2017, she published Aligning the Apprenticeship model to the needs of the Welsh Economy” supported by around £570m of revenue grant, and delivered the Programme for Government target of 100,000 Apprenticeship places for Wales.

Currently, Sam is responsible for delivering and managing of legacy European funded (ESF) programs with a budget of £80 million per annum. This includes ensuring associated monitoring, reporting and audit arrangements are in place.  She is also responsible for a range of other programmes focusing on continuous improvement, deliverables for over 200 providers.  This including programmes such as ReAct, Shared Apprenticeships, Jobs Growth Wales, Employabilty Skills Programme, Access, Wales Union Learning Fund, Inspiring Skills, Disability Employment, Chwarae Teg and Traineeships

She is the Senior Responsible Owner for the development of two major Welsh Government employability programmes (£340 million over 4 years) underpinned by a newly procured ICT system.  She has used the DSDM agile methodologies to successfully oversee the development of two major Welsh Government ICT platforms and associated services for the Skills Gateway and Essential Skills Wales.  As well as holding overall responsibility for the delivery of a high-quality careers information, advice and guidance across Wales via the management of Careers Wales and Working Wales. 

Samantha has a keen interest in the Skills agenda and is the Welsh Ambassador for Skills Competitions leading the “Team Wales” network of over 150 Welsh external organisations linked into regional and global competitions and benchmarking activities on skills.

Barry Liles OBE – Pro Vice-Chnacellor Vocational education at UWTSD

Barry Liles OBE is currently Pro Vice-Chancellor (Skills & Lifelong Learning) and Head of the Wales Institute of Science & Art, University of Wales Trinity Saint David. Barry joined WorldSkills UK’s Board as a Trustee in 2013 and is also Chair Carmarthenshire Public Services Board (2015- present day) and Chair Regional Learning & Skills Partnership Provider Group (2014- present day).

Ian Price – Director, CBI Wales

Ian became Director of CBI Wales in January 2017 after 11 years of being Assistant Director for both Wales and South West of England. Ian’s role involves him being the main link between CBI members in Wales and Welsh and UK Government, he sits on the Social Partnership Council with the First Minister for Wales. Ian also engages with key stakeholders in Wales including the Secretary of State for Wales on a regular basis, in his role he meets with businesses from all sectors in Wales and can provide an extensive and detailed view of the business landscape. He is also Chairs the Wales Apprenticeship Advisory Board on behalf of the Welsh Government.

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