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Last month I was able to share with you the names of the 60 members of Squad UK, all hoping to make it into the final Team UK who will head to Canada in September to compete on behalf of the UK at WorldSkills Calgary 2009. I hope that it inspired people to take a closer look at WorldSkills and the benefits it offers. However, this month I am asking for your help.

Although we are yet to wave ‘bon voyage’ to Team UK for WorldSkills 2009, we are already in search of the young men and women who will take part in WorldSkills London 2011. But believe it or not time is of the essence. There aren’t many days left now to be able to enter a competition that might lead to a place in Team UK to compete in London, as the closing date for competition entries is 9th April.

As such we are inviting all skilled young people to put themselves forward for a chance to represent the UK against the best in the world and asking FE providers to look to their classes and recommend students whom they see as having the potential to go far.

There are 70 skills covered under WorldSkills UK competitions, all of which are open to young people and adults. Forty of these are in skills that the UK competes in at an international level, so there are many that will form part of the competition at WorldSkills London 2011. Be it in mechanics, florists, plumbers, hairdressers, IT technicians, landscape gardeners or fashion designers – your country needs you!

It is our aim to ensure that we have a Squad UK for WorldSkills London 2011 that is truly world class, but more than that there are real, essential and urgent reasons why we should be looking to encourage people to get into skills, by either improving their current skill base or re-skilling in another area.

No one has been able to escape the fact that the world, not just the UK, is facing an economic crisis the likes of which has not been seen since the 1970’s. However this crisis will end and, as the economy recovers, we will need a highly trained workforce to strengthen the UK economy.

As a country we need to pull together and re-group. Ensuring that we have a workforce that is skilled for the future is fundamental to this. The UK needs to be able to compete effectively in the global market place and without skilled people, this will be impossible to achieve.

For businesses the advantages are obvious – better skilled staff means higher quality results and a competitive edge - and certainly at present there is a lot of support available for businesses looking to train their staff. For employees or students, being better trained could help with job security and certainly makes you more attractive to potential employers. This is why we believe that skills competitions are so important as a way of encouraging an increase of skills. All our past competitors find themselves with more confidence, more skills, more ability and the resounding determination to be the best they can be throughout their careers. Isn’t that something that we should all want to encourage?

Skills Minister Lord Young recently said: "WorldSkills UK competitions support the government’s skills strategy by helping to raise standards of training and performance, promoting world class skills and international competitiveness. This is vital in the current economic climate, and initiatives like this ensure we maximise our skills talent so that the UK is well placed for the future." I wholeheartedly agree with this. What we do now to encourage people to get ‘skilled’ helps us to be better prepared for the future.

We seem to have forgotten just how talented and skilled the UK has been seen by the other countries of the World and we still can be. Our competitors represent just one group of people who want to continue with this grand tradition - and thank goodness for that.

Historically the UK’s skilled people may not have been given the credit that they deserved, and we are still a long way from getting vocational careers accepted as an equal to say an academic qualification for example. We are seeing these views changing but we need to see a further and more rapid change in attitude. For now take comfort in the knowledge that it is these skilled people that are so crucial, to so many aspects of our life, on both a personal and global level.

After all, it is the same skills that form part of WorldSkills competitions that will ensure London successfully hosts the 2012 Olympic Games. Where would the Games be if not for the constructions skills like electronics, welding and plumbing that are needed to create the Games’ infrastructure or the hospitality events like restaurant service and cooking that will be needed so the UK can cater for the influx of thousands of visitors? Indeed everything we do is a requirement for a successful 2012.

Let this be the starting point. Encourage everyone you know who is skilled to sign up and take part in our WorldSkills UK competitions. Information on entry criteria and competitions for individual skills can be found at www.worldskillsuk.org or by calling 0800 612 0742. Entries close on 9 April 2009 with heats and national finals taking place over the spring and summer.

Click here to nominate a learner.

Simon Bartley, chief executive of UK Skills


Read other FE News articles by Simon Bartley:

Simon Bartley unveils Squad UK

Simon Bartley kicks off his new column with a history lesson

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