Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE

Lockdown restrictions are being increasing eased across the UK, but the same cannot be said for the pressures facing young people.

That is why this week, we have reinforced the commitment we made at the beginning of the pandemic, to focus our work to support nearly 200,000 young people to make informed career choices and continue with their training during these challenging times.

Research from The Learning and Work Institute, Youth Futures Foundation and The Resolution Foundation have all concluded that the forecast recession will disproportionately affect young people. 

Yet, we know that we will need highly-skilled and motivated young women and men across key sectors – public services, construction, engineering and science – to mitigate the impact of the crisis.

Alongside continuing to tackle slow productivity growth, adapting to technology change and plugging our skills gaps, we must stay focused on supporting the next generation.

Young people with the right skills-set and mindset will continue to succeed and is our responsibility to ensure we support them to develop the higher level  skills that will help drive forward the UK’s productivity and economy. 

It was this thinking that helped shape our response to Covid-19 and focus our work in three key areas:

1. increasing online support

Firstly, we are increasing our online support for thousands of young women and men who are going through our national and international skills competition training programmes.  We had 4,000 young people register their interest to take part in our national programme  this year,  which shows the importance that apprentices and students are placing on their training and development in these challenging times.  We are working with our partners  to deliver online assessments to help students and apprentices compete virtually and we are supporting all those who go through the cycle with development webinars and coaching sessions from our inspirational alumni. We are also delivering remote training to our Squad UK members who are preparing for the EuroSkills and WorldSkills Competitions in Austria and China next year.  From Wall and Floor Tiling to Cooking and through to CNC Milling, we have received exceptional support from our industry partners to enable our Squad UK members to access the latest software and materials to continue to hone their skills in lockdown.  By delivering our training programmes online, we are ensuring young people can continue to develop their skillset and mindset to the highest possible levels so they can build their confidence and potential.

2. New digital resources

Secondly, last week, we launched new digital resources to enable more young people and educators, throughout the UK, to benefit from our international medal-winning training programmes.  We have always worked to help young people thrive in their education and training and our series of technical skills and mindset masterclasses, from our network of Training Managers and Performance Coaches, are designed to give educators access to our world-class skills development know-how. 

We have increased our online careers advice and guidance for thousands of young people not yet in work – who are in school or college – to help them make informed choices about their next steps.  Our  Careers Advice Toolkit has been updated to include a new module that focuses on wellbeing, with advice and guidance from WorldSkills UK alumni who now work in the healthcare profession.  We are aiming to engage 35,000 students through our toolkits and will be targeting resources at schools and colleges in disadvantaged areas to ensure we are engaging those who are hardest to reach. By deploying more online careers advice role models – our alumni network of highly skilled individuals, who have achieved success in their careers, we will be increasing our efforts to encourage young women and men to make career choices that challenge gender stereotypes, and support more young people who are BAME, identify as LGBT+ or have a learning disability to take up apprenticeships and technical career routes.  We are drawing on the expertise of our established network of 1900 partners across the UK – including hundreds of colleges, training providers and employers, sector skills bodies and organisations like NCFE, National Careers Service, City & Guilds, Youth Employment UK, Education and Employers and the Careers & Enterprise Company – to ensure our outreach has maximum impact.

3. New WorldSkills UK Centre of Excellence College Partners

Thirdly, we are working to select the 20 successful FE Colleges who will be part of the first year of the new WorldSkills UK Centre of Excellence, in partnership with NCFE.  This initiative is the first of its kind to be launched in the UK.  We will work with college partners to help mainstream world-class methods in training and assessment through global benchmarking to help more and more young people, including those from disadvantaged areas, achieve higher standards in their training, so they have the competitive edge employers are looking for.  Bringing international best practice back to the UK will also help support the government’s pledge to establish a world-leading technical education sector. 

As we continue to navigate our exit from the lockdown restrictions, we will work with our partners to prepare for a skills-led recovery and the development of a “skills economy” which rightly values high-quality apprenticeships and technical education routes for all young people. The young people we support today with advice, knowledge and skills, will be the workforce of tomorrow helping employers lead the charge towards recovery and economic growth for the prosperity of all. 

Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE, Chief Executive, WorldSkills UK 

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