Through my leadership of the WorldSkills Vocational Masterclass Programme, I have been privileged to see the impact that taking part in skills competitions can make on learning outcomes and organisational development. The return of the UK wide Skills Show next month provides an opportunity to explore and celebrate the wider impact of skills competition on the development of higher level teaching, learning and assessment skills.
At NAS we are challenging the nation’s top employers and apprentices to come forward and show how Apprenticeships and training have made a real difference to their organisation. This is a real opportunity for employers and individuals to gain the recognition they richly deserve for building the national skills base and fuelling economic growth.
The National Training Awards give us an insight into what is working best in the UK vocational learning system. Encouragingly, further education invariably plays an important part in this. Colleges have either won an award directly for developing their own people or they have collaborated with local employers to meet their evolving skill needs.What these experiences show us is that within the FE system there is an immense amount of talent and know-how which is potentially on tap for employers. The big question is whether it is being made available to employers in a way which works for them.Quality of provisionOne of the themes that comes through powerfully in the recent Government White Paper Skills for Growth is the need to get a better fit between how colleges operate and the needs of employers. Indeed one of the White Paper’s priorities was to address the question: "How can we further improve the quality of provision at further education colleges?"A number of proposals are made ranging from the simplification of the skills landscape to the way the Skills Funding Agency contracts with colleges. What we can see, from our perspective at UK Skills, is that there is already some very effective practice in place linked to a real spirit of co-operation between colleges and employers. It is just a matter of finding it.Take the example of the relationship between Ridgeons Ltd (one of the largest independently owned timber and Builders Merchant in the country) and Cambridge Regional College which was the basis of one of our winning entries this year. Ridgeons wanted to become a leader in the supply of building materials which would combat climate change - but it needed an informed workforce which could guide, advise and inform builders and developers on the appropriate materials. Fortunately, Cambridge Regional College had extensive expertise in the area of modern methods of construction and was ideally positioned to help Ridgeons. But what made the relationship work effectively was a genuine co-operative spirit between the company and college operating on a two way basis. While courses were organised at the college for the Ridgeons staff, the CRC tutors attended manufacturers’ product events organised by Ridgeons. As a result CRC was able to adapt the construction curriculum specifically to meet the employer’s needs.This sense of learning and working together was at the heart of the collaboration and demonstrated to the employer that the college was serious in its desire to understand what its ‘client’ wanted. A system of regular meetings, student feedback sheets and joint course reviews then provided the infrastructure to ensure that it was all kept on track.Listen upWhat is important about this kind of relationship is that it is tailor-made. Obviously it is natural that colleges will run a lot of standard courses. But if there is to be a real flourishing in co-operation between colleges and employers then it will need imaginative, individually-focused initiatives.A good example of this came from another of our 2009 winning partnerships - and in a rather unexpected field. Luminar Leisure operates almost one hundred late night entertainment venues. It was becoming concerned about the high staff turn-over and lack of training for its managers. So it turned to Loughborough College for help.What resulted was a truly ground-breaking exercise in which the college created a Management Development Programme (MDP) which exactly mirrored the job roles of each level of management within the Luminar operation. As Luminar pointed out to us, however, the basis of the relationship was that the college provided a real "fit with our values and business philosophy". The college listened to what Luminar wanted and tailored its offer accordingly. It then built up a close, honest working relationship to ensure that the delivery worked out.So without question there is plenty of scope for the further education system to adapt to the demands of employers for the benefit of the companies, the individual learners and themselves. But it does require flexibility in outlook and a real desire to respond to exactly what employers want.Simon Bartley is chief executive of UK Skills, which champions learning through competitions and awardsRead other FE News articles by Simon Bartley: Simon Bartley's Christmas FE message from UK SkillsSimon Bartley on the role businesses should play in shaping the skills of young people Your country needs you!
Hot on the heels of Team UK’s success at WorldSkills Calgary 2009, UK Skills has launched this year’s series of WorldSkills UK competitions. The UK’s premier set of skills competitions, they run every year in around 70 skills and are open to young people and adults who have gained, or are working towards vocational skills. Anyone of any age can enter the WorldSkills UK Competitions, but it doesn’t stop there. If you were born on or after 1st January 1989, and enter this year, you could be in with the chance of representing the UK at the skills equivalent of the Olympics – WorldSkills, when it is held in London between 5th - 8th October 2011. For competitors looking to enter Mechantronics, Aeronautical Engineering and Engineering Challenge at WorldSkills London 2011, they must be born on or after 1st January 1986. The WorldSkills Competition, which is the biggest international skills competition in the world, takes place every two years. This year is the last chance for people to get involved for WorldSkills London 2011 as competitors invited to compete in UK finals held before 5th July 2010 may have a chance of being selected for inclusion in a shortlist for the international competition. At UK Skills we believe that skills competitions offer significant benefits to all those who enter and support them. This is reinforced in the government’s skills agenda and supported by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills’ strategy to survive the recession and achieve world-class standing in employment, productivity and skills in the years ahead. WorldSkills UK Competitions continue to play a key part in lifting standards of training and performance while promoting world class skills. When asked about the advantages of being involved with skills competitions, many highlighted that it has helped trainers to raise their teaching standards by allowing them to differentiate their training provision. What’s more, it provides the opportunity to showcase competitors’ achievements and for the competitors themselves it offers the chance to improve personal development, boosting their self esteem and motivation. Vicki Fagg, Principal, College of North West London and WorldSkills UK Champion adds: "Competitions can engage, inspire and stretch students to excel in their chosen skills. Competitions enhance the learning experience for everyone and our students, their employers and the College have enjoyed the great benefits from exposure to high national standards which competing and winning at national competition can bring." This feeling is echoed by Oliver Clack, who is employed by Cathedral Work. He represented the UK at WorldSkills Calgary 2009 in Stonemasonry. On taking part in the competition, Oliver said: "It is an honour to be among the top in the UK. The thought of it makes me so proud of myself." Now more than ever, skilled industries are crucial to the future success of our economy. Entering skills competitions really does have a tremendous effect on competitors, their employers and their colleges. The benefits to all involved are immense as Vikki Fagg from the College of North West London highlighted. We really want to see more people entering competitions to prove to the whole of the UK just how many talented people we have in this country and in 2011 we want to be able to shout to the whole of the world how talented we are. To enter the 2009/10 WorldSkills UK competitions, please enter on line at www.worldskillsuk.org. Here you will find a comprehensive list of all competitions and those that lead to WorldSkills London 2011. If you know anyone who has what it takes to become the best in their industry, then please encourage them to get involved. Simon Bartley is chief executive of UK Skills, which champions learning through competitions and awardsRead other FE News articles by Simon Bartley:UK Skills CEO reflects on Britain's progress in Calgary 2009UK Skills CEO tells FE News how skills competitions benefit education in the current climateThe UK's unsung heroes
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