Ben Blackledge, Director of Education and Skills Competitions, WorldSkills UK

I’m looking forward to welcoming the brightest and best apprentices and learners to WorldSkills UK LIVE on 15 – 17 November at the NEC, Birmingham.

For those that don’t know, WorldSkills UK LIVE is the UK’s largest skills, apprenticeships and careers event and includes the WorldSkills UK National Finals, bringing together top competitors from across the country hoping to be crowned the UK’s champion in their chosen skill.

Our elite competitors will be joined by business and education leaders, and policy makers from governments across the UK, along with over 70,000 visitors.

With such a diverse gathering of important stakeholders, this a key opportunity for us to be inspired and celebrate the best in FE, and to discuss some of the opportunities we have ahead of us.

What’s on offer at WorldSkills UK LIVE

We’re giving students the chance to discover the key skills and sectors that drive the UK economy.

They can get hands on and try out new skills with our Have a Go experiences, and they will be able to talk to potential employers and career advisors to help them plan their future careers.

As ever, central to this year’s event is the chance for young learners to watch the best of the best compete at the highest level in the WorldSkills UK National Finals.

From aeronautical engineering to cyber security, media make-up to landscape gardening, the competitions give visitors the chance to witness exceptional talents and find out how they can join in future competitions.

This year, we are bringing to life the new technology that will unlock the potential of future generations.

Our ‘Future Tech’ zone will demonstrate the latest in virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence, bringing together forward-thinking businesses and organisations to discuss how this is changing the UK’s careers landscape.

Our hope is that visitors will be inspired by the latest ideas and innovations in new technology from some of the most ground-breaking businesses in the UK.

I am also really excited about our Tech Summit, which will capitalise on the coming together of the sector through a series of roundtables and youth summits.

The focus of this summit will be to explore how technology is changing the world of work and how we need to respond to this opportunity.

Using skills competitions to improve learning standards

We know from working with competitors and their organisations that competing at any level in skills competitions such as WorldSkills UK LIVE not only helps young people hone their technical abilities – they also develop the resilience and creative mindset to help them to become part of the productive, highly-skilled workforce of the future.

Our partners in colleges and the corporate world have told us that skills competitions accelerate the development of those taking part, helping them to achieve greater technical excellence in their chosen skill.

What’s more, young people who participate in competitions develop invaluable transferable skills and come out as well-rounded individuals.

We also know for a fact that skills competitions are a successful tool for driving up standards in the wider classroom, inspiring all students to go for gold in their technical education and apprenticeships regardless of whether or not they are competing.

Of course, the amazing people who train and support our competitors also deserve to be recognised for all their hard work and commitment.

That’s why we’re launching our 2018 Local Heroes Awards, encouraging people to nominate dedicated individuals who have gone the extra mile for competitors. You can find out more about the Awards and how to nominate your Local Hero here.

Ensuring skills competitions lead to a diverse workforce

Skills competitions, along with the wider work we do at WorldSkills UK, form part of a comprehensive approach to tackling today’s labour shortages.

Personally, I believe that one of the most important aspects of building tomorrow’s workforce is ensuring that young people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to accelerate their careers from an early age.

I’m passionate about making sure our competitions create diverse role models who reflect the society they represent and encourage more to follow in their footsteps.

I’m proud to say that we will be implementing a set of programmes to open up career opportunities for as many people as possible, including traditionally underrepresented groups.

The Raising Our BAME programme is aimed at increasing the number of competitors from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.

We are also working with Semta and the CITB to increase the number of young women attending the event, with a particular focus on engaging them in Construction and Engineering disciplines. You can find out more about these initiatives and how to get involved here.

Getting involved in WorldSkills UK LIVE

General registration is now closed for Thursday 15 November and places are going fast for Friday 16 November, but there’s still a chance to visit the event on Saturday 17 November. Book your space at the event, here

Students will be able to get hands-on with a range of skills, as well as getting to be part of the UK National Finals prestigious medal ceremony. The event is also a fantastic opportunity for students to meet our careers experts and leading employers. 

I look forward to seeing you there!

Ben Blackledge, Director of Education and Skills Competitions, WorldSkills UK

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