From education to employment

UK opportunities in the global skills marketplace

John Mountford, Development Director, Semta International

At Semta International, we place great value in our international projects and partnerships, the lessons we’ve learnt from going global through interacting with our partners and by meeting the specific challenges of successfully delivering in overseas markets have immensely enhanced and informed the way we do business in all our markets.

Equally, we are confident that our expertise within the Semta Group as a UK Sector Skills Council and Awarding Organisation has added real and sustainable value to our international partners’ skills strategies and ambitions. We are absolutely committed to meaningful and sustainable collaboration that is built on mutuality and respect – an approach that has always underpinned our UK work and one that we correspondingly apply to our international partnerships.

Our international activity has taught us that there is much global commonality in the skills arena.

We share an increasingly global skills landscape that is striving to meet the training needs for both today and tomorrow. We share concerns about the impact of skills gaps and the threat they represent to individual, industrial and national competiveness in the global market place.

We acknowledge the growing need for a mutual understanding of global standards and qualifications that allows systems to be internationally benchmarked. This shared understanding can help to drive up international standards in line with the expectations of employers and support individuals’ international mobility making them globally competitive.

There is also a growing understanding that Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) interventions are most likely to succeed when they are demand-led, and the private sector is involved in the design and delivery of training.

An understanding that is encapsulated through the focus on combining work and training through apprenticeship programmes, levy funding models and dual professionalism in the TVET workforce. There is a shared acknowledgement of the importance of interventions that change mindsets and challenge cultural norms towards technical and vocational education.

Although these shared opportunities and challenges are global, their impact is irrevocably linked to local outcomes. It is often through local interventions that international partnerships can support the capacity building of TVET systems that allow them to meet global challenges.

These areas of support can include:

  • Embedding employers’ engagement in training through strong Sector Skills Bodies,
  • Mapping of technical and vocational qualifications to international frameworks and the
  • Capacity building of TVET providers to allow them to take an autonomous and responsive approach to meeting local, national and international demand.

It’s through supporting the development of local TVET capacity in these types of areas that UK providers can develop international opportunities.

Whilst acknowledging the national differences in skills systems and approaches across the devolved nations, our shared multiple stakeholder systems built on alliances between different autonomous stakeholders are well placed to deliver international solutions. We have become adept at working in a fast changing policy landscape, we are used to engaging with different sector stakeholders and we have a flexible portfolio of qualifications that can be adapted to meet different global needs.

This environment can often appear confusing or indeed confused to international partners who are trying to engage with it, however, it is exactly due to these fissiparous tendencies that we have a system that has the fluidity to meet international skills demands.

We have Sector Skills Councils with deep reservoirs of expertise in engaging with employers and setting national occupational standards that reflect the needs of industry, we have strong independent awarding bodies who can adapt quickly to changing industry demand in measuring competency and skills and we have autonomous quality assured TVET providers who combine a public sector sense of duty with an entrepreneurial private sector approach in meeting partners’ demands.

We also have learning and funding models that support the close engagement between the private and skills sectors. We also have a system that is robustly quality assured and supported by government but not restricted by departmental dictates. All these features represent a significant opportunity for UK skills providers to make a significant international contribution.

In many ways Semta’s international work reflects this portfolio of opportunity. This has included working extensively with overseas partners from both industry and government in developing national occupational standards.

These standards are developed thorough utilising UK models and expertise but are always designed prioritising local skill needs. We’ve partnered with donor funding agencies in supporting the capacity building of international Sector Skills Councils that help to establish close collaborative links between local employers and training providers and by doing so improve the relevance and appeal of TVET and curricula.

We have delivered our industry focused qualifications through international EAL recognised centres. We have also had the opportunity to support the development of apprenticeship programmes in Jordan, Oman and China.

Finally, we have worked extensively with FE colleges to support and enhance their international activities and delivery. By adapting and applying the expertise we have available in the UK skills sector we can make a significant contribution to meeting local skills needs that in turn impact on our partners’ international competitiveness.

These significant opportunities for UK providers are increasingly being enhanced by support from the UK government and other international education sector stakeholders.

We’ve had the opportunity to access new markets through support from the Department of International Trade and we’ve received project funding from the Department for International Development ( DfID) and Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

We’ve also work extensively with the British Council through delivering projects and supporting policy initiatives. It is very encouraging to see the work of the UK Skills Partnership bringing key sector stakeholders together to promote a more joined up approach to international work, which will help us to scale up our offer to meet the requirements of larger TVET reform opportunities.

There are also sector bodies who support their members’ international opportunities, such as:

  • FISSS,
  • AoC,
  • AELP,
  • FAB 

The challenges and barriers to working internationally have to be acknowledged and understood. However, the current global demand for high quality skills coupled with the make-up of the UK’s offer makes all of us in this sector significantly well placed to make a full contribution to international projects and programmes.

Semta’s experience of working internationally leads us to encourage partners from across the sector to join us in going global.

John Mountford, International Development Director, Semta

About John Mountford: Semta’s International Development Director, John previously worked as Association of Colleges International Director, representing England’s Government College sector. This included working closely with UK and overseas Governments in developing international Training and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) partnership and bilateral programmes.

He played a leading role in developing UK India Education Research Initiative (UKIERI) 3’s Skills strand and has contributed to a number of system to system partnerships in India, China, Brazil, South Africa, European Union and Indonesia. He has contributed to a number of advisory groups focusing on the shape of the UK’s international TVET strategy. John has also held senior international roles in both the University and College sectors. He has 14 years’ experience heading up international business development specifically in FE.

About Semta International: They work closely with global partners in helping to develop solutions to understanding and meeting their Skills needs. This includes bespoke programmes focusing on Labour Market Intelligence, standards, training and certification. Email for more information about Semta’s international work go to  or email .

Copyright © 2018 FE News

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