From education to employment

The UK now has one year to prepare for WorldSkills

The eyes of the educational and skills training world along with the leaders of industry will be firmly fixed on ExCeL London between 5-8 October next year when the UK plays host to WorldSkills London 2011. A global event held every two years, WorldSkills brings together young people from over 50 countries to compete in up to 45 skills, with competitions ranging from floristry to aircraft maintenance and cooking to mobile robotics. The competition is an opportunity for young people to test their abilities against the best in the world.

At WorldSkills London 2011 I will be volunteering as a Workshop Manager in the Hairdressing Competition. As such, it will be my responsibility to ensure that all the equipment and facilities are in place so that competitors are able to compete in the best possible working environment. As a former competitor myself, I know how important this element of competitions is in helping competitors perform to the best of their abilities.

My involvement with skills competitions in fact began early on in my career when, as a hairdressing apprentice, I managed to achieve third place in my first ever event. The thrill of being able to succeed and produce work above and beyond a standard that I thought could be achieved, was like nothing I had ever experienced. From that day on my journey of entering, training and improving began. It was thanks mainly to the confidence and skills I gained through those experiences that I was able to develop from apprentice to a salon owner very quickly and also use my knowledge to educate and train new and emerging talent entering the industry.

My career soon saw me taking on the roles of trainer, judge, WorldSkills Expert and host in a large number of regional, national and international competitions and led me to my eventual appointment at City of Bristol College where I am now Head of Faculty for Service & Leisure.

In the run up to WorldSkills London 2011, I have been leading on a project at City of Bristol College, with great support from my management team and colleagues, to promote the value and significance of skills events to young people, training providers and employers. As such, we have achieved a huge increase across the College in participation within national competitions in a wide range of skills. Furthermore, we have also been sharing our experiences and learnings with other colleges and training providers, contributing to a working group which has been brought together by Viv Gillespie, Principal of City College, Plymouth. Together with members from the worlds of education, training and industry, we are working to ensure greater engagement of young people and the developing of skills required, not only in the South West but nationally and globally. We have received great recognition and support from industry with large employers such as Ginsters Foods most recently joining the group.

So as we look forward to WorldSkills London 2011, I will be in my 27th year of involvement with skills competitions and am very much looking forward to being part of an event that will attract thousands of visitors from the UK and around the world. I know that hosting an event of such magnitude involves a multitude of people, resources and support from many organisations and individuals. I would therefore urge anyone interested in contributing to its success, to get involved and help fill the few remaining voluntary Workshop Supervisor positions in competitions including: Polymechanics/Automation, Manufacturing Team Challenge, Mechatronics, Offset Printing, Metal Roofing, Graphic Design Technology and Restaurant Service.

In volunteering not only will all those involved be helping the UK to deliver a world class international competition. They will also be able to add another dimension to their work in education, (just as I have) which can be shared with students and colleagues back in the workplace to help ensure standards in skills are raised and maintained in the future.

For more information about WorldSkills London 2011 go to

Christine Vokins is head of faculty for service and leisure at City of Bristol College

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