Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE is stepping down as CEO of WorldSkills UK after more than seven successful years leading the organisation.

Under Neil’s leadership, WorldSkills UK has grown and developed to focus on how international benchmarking from the global WorldSkills network in over 85 countries can be harnessed to drive up standards in skills development across the UK.

Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE, said: “It has been a real privilege to lead WorldSkills UK over the past seven years and to help grow its impact nationally and internationally.

While I am looking forward to my leadership next step, I am of course sad to move on from a fantastic organisation with a brilliant team doing such important, life-changing work.”

Key highlights during his tenure include:

  • establishing the WorldSkills UK Centre of Excellence, in partnership with NCFE, and the WorldSkills UK Learning Lab, to help educators achieve excellence in training through international best practice;
  • producing a series of influential diagnostic reports linking skills development with rapidly changing employer, investor and economic needs;
  • introducing key future skills into the competitions programme and succeeding in getting UK back into the Top 10 skills nations globally in the WorldSkills performance medal table;
  • becoming a sector leader in championing equity, diversity and inclusion to help more young people from all backgrounds succeed; and
  • engaging and supporting the development of nearly 1 million young people.

Neil’s departure has been carefully planned with the Board, with a smooth transition in place. Neil is due to step down as CEO in May and will remain on the Board of WorldSkills UK to support the organisation through a transition period thereafter.  Ben Blackledge, who has been at WorldSkills UK for over eight years and is currently Deputy CEO, will take over as interim CEO when Neil steps down.

Chair of the WorldSkills UK Board, Marion Plant OBE, said:

“We would like to offer our heartfelt thanks to Neil for his transformational leadership over the last seven years. He has successfully navigated many challenges, positioning us as a unique and innovative contributor to the UK skills systems. This positioning has enabled the lives of countless students, apprentices, further education staff and other partners to change for the better.

The respect in which WorldSkills UK is held nationally and internationally has grown significantly under his leadership and we are well placed now to grow and to deepen our impact within the UK skills systems. We wish Neil all the very best of success in his important new role at the Whitehall and Industry Group.

The Board is also delighted that Ben has agreed to take on the role as interim CEO, bringing his extensive experience of WorldSkills nationally and internationally. We look forward to supporting him in working with the sector and our partners as the organisation goes from strength to strength.”

Outgoing CEO of WorldSkills UK, Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE, added:

“Working with the Board and Ben and the team, I am very proud of what we have achieved. With the support of the DfE and so many partners across the UK nations and the world, we are improving training standards through mainstreaming international best practice, championing future skills to align with rapidly changing economic needs and empowering more young people, from all backgrounds, to succeed in work and life.”

Neil has made the decision to leave WorldSkills UK to take up a great opportunity as the new CEO at the Whitehall & Industry Group, an independent non-lobbying charity which fosters mutual co-operation, understanding and learning across business, government, not-for-profits and academia. WorldSkills UK is a member of the Whitehall & Industry Group and has benefitted from its excellent work on leadership development, its charity secondment programme and its public policy briefings.

WorldSkills UK will now begin the process of appointing a permanent new CEO.

The next WorldSkills Competition will take place in Lyon, France in 2024.

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