From education to employment

The triumph of The Skills Show

Jan Hodges OBE is chief executive of Edge

Well, The Skills Show brought winter in with a flourish, what a success! With over 82,000 young people, families and teachers through the doors it was certainly a busy few days and we were proud to call ourselves Premier Sponsors, alongside City & Guilds and PremierColleges.

As the UK’s largest skills and careers event it was inspirational in the way it brought so many different industries together under one, albeit very large, roof. Despite the crowds, it was easy to navigate and you could find yourself watching an intense patisserie competition one minute and having a go at stonemasonry the next.

For the Edge Foundation it was an excellent opportunity to showcase our projects and shine a light on a few of the many organisations we work with and support. The Edge Hotel School was a particularly popular stand- as much to do with its fantastic degree offering as the free ice cream we hope! But while many came for the ice cream, they stayed for the insights the students and staff gave them into studying at the hotel and it was great to see so many young people interested in the course. We were honoured to have HRH The Princess Royal spend some time at the stand on the Friday, meeting Edge Hotel School Head Chef Paul Boorman, current students and myself.

The University Technical College stand was also a hub of activity over the event with a constant stream of inquisitive visitors and young engineers eager to learn more about life at a UTC. The JCB Academy also ran a Spotlight Session which again gave young people the opportunity to hear more about UTCs and what they can expect from a career in engineering.

Another Spotlight session, which encouraged children to think about how to apply their learning to real life situations, was run by Skills to Shine. With the help of the engaging session leader, Lindsey Dunn, all sorts of ideas were inspired including a medieval café to assist with a history project!

Our five ‘Have a Go’ activities varied in content but not quality and all were exceptionally well run. From pitching to the dragon’s den, including a very lifelike cut-out of Peter Jones himself, to creating a personalised logo using street art techniques; they were fantastic and our thanks go to the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy, Gazelle Colleges Group, Identicon Arts, the National Skills Academy for Retail and Bishop Burton College for running them with such enthusiasm.

Our policy seminar held on the Friday was also a success with a strong discussion on apprenticeship reform leading the agenda- thank you to the organisations and individuals who attended and spoke.

A personal highlight was the final of our Edge Challenge competition which saw three young entrepreneurs presenting their business plans for the chance to win £3000. All three were excellent examples of the capability of young people to put their entrepreneurial drive into action and we are glad to be able to offer them support at the beginning of their business ventures. Their prizes were awarded by Patron of The Skills Show Theo Paphitis, a firm supporter of young entrepreneurs.

It was a brilliant three days and despite the achy feet we are thoroughly looking forward to next year’s event.

Jan Hodges OBE is chief executive of Edge, the independent education charity dedicated to raising the status of technical, practical and vocational learning


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