Joanne Manship Oldham College Head of Digital, Creative and Performing Arts at Oldham College has been central to the college’s drive to improve opportunities in WorldSkills Competitions for students from underrepresented groups. She leads on the Greater Manchester WorldSkills Competitions’ strategy for the college and internal competition activity. This culminates in a skills competition’s week in February all students and apprentices take part in,irrespective of their level or course. She has also been a keen advocate of the college WorldSkills EDI action plan working on ensuring there are no barriers to students and that accessibility is fair and enables those less likely to compete to put themselves forward. 

Joanne is the operational lead for WorldSkills registrations and monitors the EDI characteristics of students and apprentices from registration through to the final stages. Through her experience and knowledge, she supported WorldSkills UK in delivering workshops on EDI implementation into WorldSkills strategy at the AELP Conference in September 2022. She was the first faculty manager to bid for funding from the Turing Scheme to send students out to Germany to benefit from technical experience. She targeted students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and those who live in some of the most deprived wards in England.

There is no doubt that Joanne’s drive and enthusiasm for WorldSkills and the opportunities it provides for those students and apprentices from underrepresented groups has resulted in the college increasing its EDI profile. In November 2021 a student with SEND on a foundation competition won a Bronze Medal and another on Graphic Design also won Bronze. This year in November 2022, the college won a Gold Medal for Foundation Health and Social Care. 

Joanne is at the forefront of developing an approach to EDI in WorldSkills and developed the operational monitoring for us to be able track the inclusion of students from underrepresented groups. She is also responsible for the implementation of actions on the college’s inclusivity and diversity action plan, working with faculty areas to highlight the importance of inclusion. Joanne’s involvement has led to registrations for WorldSkills UK Competitions increasing from none in 2017 to 135 in 2022, of these 41% were female, 34% were BAME, 25% were SEND and 75% were from disadvantage postcodes. 

As a technical and professional college in the heart of one of the most deprived areas in England, the college wanted to ensure that all our students had an opportunity to compete on a regional and national level in WorldSkills UK. Joanne felt strongly that this was something students should be entitled to and possibly to an even greater extent considering their backgrounds and potential barriers.

Oldham has a significant proportion of wards that are in the most deprived 10% to 20% in England on all measures. There are four wards in the top 1%, all within a stone’s throw of Oldham College and from which many of our students come. Our referral to safeguarding and welfare increased by 75% last year, and this year referrals have doubled. The ‘at risk on entry’ numbers have risen sharply over the last couple of years, quadrupling from 2019/20 to 2021/22 and this year are up again by 25%. 53% of the college’s 16 -18 years old student profile is BAME, 25% have a declared disability and 15% have an education health and care plan (EHCP). For the college, this was all the more reason why students should have the opportunity to excel and demonstrate excellence through participation in WorldSkills UK Competitions.  

All students will be involved in the competitions and with a ‘no opt out’ approach across the college, students who may not have put themselves forward previously will now be part of the competitions. There will be a period of practice for all students starting several weeks prior to the competition which will provide those individuals who may not feel as confident or as secure about taking part, and chance to focus and practice specific skills in preparation.  Joanne will be monitoring the experience of those students from underrepresented groups and tracking their journey in terms of achievement. From these internal competitions, tutors will be selecting and advising students to register for WorldSkills UK, and we will no doubt see from this an increase in the number of students from underrepresented groups. 

Joanne is keen to increase participation from these underrepresented groups further. The internal skills competition which started last year and will see every student and apprentice competing this year is being driven by Joanne. She is leading a group of cross college staff with the intent of providing students with a focussed time to learn and practise a specific skill in readiness for the competition. This represents our next stage of embedding the philosophy of WorldSkills UK into our day-to-day practice at the college. All students will experience moving into the ‘performance zone’ and the benefits will be enormous: improved personal and technical skills with high levels of employability skills; more likely to achieve qualifications to a high standard; increases in ambition, belief and aspirations about future careers; inspires competition at a higher level and celebrates success and boosts confidence.

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