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This month, Team UK will stand on the podium at WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017 in front of a global audience of apprentices, government officials and royalty, as they prepare to compete in the world’s toughest skills competition.

For the 34-stong team, it will mark a huge milestone for them, for which collectively they will have completed over 71,000 hours of additional training on top of their apprenticeships. For me personally, it will be the completion of a two-year development programme in which we have worked with WorldSkills UK to support Shane Carpenter as he prepares to compete in the IT Network Administration Competition at WorldSkills. Shane is an apprentice with BAE Systems and trains at our college.

Shane is just one example of how taking part in WorldSkills UK Competitions can accelerate a young person’s career. As employers become more aware of the important role skills competitions play in the delivery of apprenticeship training; from raising technical skills levels to giving individuals the opportunity to develop attributes including confidence, team working, time management and ability to work under pressure, I am finding more and more are asking which of our learners have taken part in competitions.

NESCOT has a strong track record in participating in WorldSkills UK Competitions, having entered every year since 2009, but for the college it is not just about winning medals. We want our learners to be ready for employment and the experience of competing prepares them for just that.

Involvement with WorldSkills UK Competitions has impacted significantly on performance results across the college.

In our last OFSTED report, the competition activity was mentioned as having a positive impact on the college and its students. I believe this is because of the hands-on aspects of the competitions. Our learners are able to stand out from their peers when seeking apprenticeships, traineeships and completing their UCAS forms as they are able to draw on their experience with WorldSkills UK to differentiate their learning experiences. It was certainly Shane’s success in the National Finals of WorldSkills UK which helped him secure a much sought after apprenticeship with BAE Systems.  

Having seen the impact entering learners into skills competitions was having on their performance, Carol Martin, our Deputy Principal, made the decision to embed the activity into the college’s curriculum programmes, so all learners and staff could benefit. By including previous test pieces into the teaching programmes, we have an industry approved, ready-made assessment tool that helps prepare learners for the demands of working in their chosen sector.  

Having first entered the IT Competitions in the WorldSkills UK portfolio, we are now entering a wide range of subjects, most notably Media and Games.

However it wasn’t just the management team at our college that were seeing the benefits. The increasingly popularity of skills competition activity means I don’t have to actively recruit learners each year to enter.

Learners willingly commit their spare time to training for the competitions in order to benefit from the technical and soft skills they will gain.

They have seen the success of former competitors from our college, like Shane, and know that it will look good on their CV, increase their employment prospects and that they are learning the right skills for the industry.

Working with Kevin Large, Shane’s Expert for WorldSkills, we have been able to devise a training programme which not only allows Shane to practise for the competition, which will require him to work at the equivalent of a Level 7, but also engage the wider college community. Often, they can’t quite believe the level of task being carried out, but it shows them if their peers can achieve it after working hard, so they could they.

Through this partnership with WorldSkills UK, our college network has also been extended. The training of competitors who compete at WorldSkills involves a comprehensive schedule in which different organisations, throughout the UK and internationally, deliver modules. As a result we have hosted staff from New College Lanarkshire in Scotland and representatives from CISCO. It is this sharing of best practise which helps enhance the training we are delivering for all our learners.

Shane and the rest of Team UK are important role models. The skills shortage facing the UK has been well documented and the issue is being escalated by inadequate careers advice for young people.

By showcasing Team UK’s success at a global event like WorldSkills, it shows parents, teachers and young people how far an apprenticeship can take you.

I hope you will join our college in showing your support for Shane and his team mates on social media using #TeamUK, when they compete at WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017 from 14 to 19 October.

Suresh Kamadchisundaram, Tutor, NESCOT College

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