Dr Neil Bentley, Chief Executive, WorldSkills UK

2017 is shaping up to be a significant year for us all. Aside from the uncertainty around Brexit, this year we will see the apprenticeship levy come into force and for many that will be a number one priority.

Questions still exist around the implementation of the levy, but I am sure we can all agree that for far too long there has been an under-investment in skills in this country. The levy will act to change this and provide us with the real opportunity to address skills shortages.

Apprenticeship and Skills Minister Robert Halfon has spoken of his priorities around the new apprenticeship policy including ensuring that every apprenticeship is of the highest quality, offering the skills employers are looking for. But if we are to successfully showcase the UK as a trading nation in its own right, we also need to ensure that the training our apprentices receive is based on world class standards. This was very much evident at the recent EuroSkills Competition, which took place in December in Sweden, bringing together over 500 young people from across 30 countries to compete to be the best in Europe at their chosen skill.

The UK delivered an outstanding medal winning performance at the Competition, achieving four Gold (in three skill disciplines), one Silver and three Bronze Medals (in two skill disciplines), as well as eight Medallions of Excellence, awarded to those who reached the European standard in their skill. EuroSkills is a microcosm of how the UK is doing against economies across Europe. The same is true of the WorldSkills International Competition, but on a global scale. Success in both these competitions, the UK ranked seventh in the last event in Sâo Paulo in 2015 ahead of France and Germany, provides a strong base from which we can build our apprenticeship training to world-class standards.

All of the European countries who took part in EuroSkills will be using lessons learnt form the competition to prepare their competitors for the next WorldSkills Competition which takes place in October this year in Abu Dhabi. But here in the UK we are going one step further. This month we are launching the WorldSkills UK Accelerated Learning CPD Programme, which is based on our insights from our international competition success.

Using the knowledge gained from competing, we will be sharing with practitioners how they can accelerate their apprentice’s training by including competition elements in curriculum and training programmes. We will also be sharing the development programme for Team UK, which is based on the programme followed by our Olympian athletes, to show how including coaching elements in training can not only empower apprentices but can also enrich and motivate trainers and teaching staff.

Our research tells us that participating in competitions really can improve an apprentice’s career. In a recent survey, over 95% of competitors believed that taking part in our competitions improved their technical and employability skills, while over 80% felt that competing had increased key skills including team working, personal confidence, time management and ability to work under pressure. It is these skills that will drive UK industries forward, enabling businesses to better compete globally.

Working together we can ensure skills at the highest level are at the forefront of all training, meeting the needs of our apprentices, employers and global industry.

Dr Neil Bentley, Chief Executive, WorldSkills UK

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