Parisa Shirazi, Head of Skills Development and International Competitions, WorldSkills UK

It was fantastic to see young people at the heart of the government’s plans to rebuild the economy. We know that the impact of this pandemic will affect young people disproportionately, so it is essential that support is provided to help them prepare for and secure sustainable employment.

However, we need to ensure that for all of the initiatives announced there is a strong focus on quality, ensuring that training is levelled up not down. Critical to the future of the economy will be a renewed focus on higher quality skills, which is why I was heartened to read the Education Secretary’s announcement last week in which he detailed his plans to build a ‘world-class’ further education system. At WorldSkills UK, we share this ambition and it was the driving force behind our Centre of Excellence, which we have developed in partnership with NCFE.  

Launching in September, the Centre of Excellence will see us working with colleges throughout the UK to use our unique insights into global skills systems and NCFE’s experience in curriculum development to help mainstream world-class standards in teaching, learning and assessment. This will help thousands of young people boost their potential.  

We have been benchmarking internationally and honing our training methods for many years through our involvement in WorldSkills, the global hub of skills excellence which also runs the biennial international skills competition known as the ‘Skills Olympics’. Yet, until now we have not yet systematically transferred this knowledge outside the competition setting. We knew this had to change. Watching China and Russia use their membership of WorldSkills to mainstream global industry standards into their training indicated that we could use our insight and experience to add value right across the UK skills systems.

To support our thinking, we commissioned SKOPE to explore in more detail the role of WorldSkills UK Training Managers. These are often the unsung heroes of our skills competition success so we felt it was vital that we understood the unique role they play and how this expertise and experience could be used to inform the future of skills development. The report ‘Good People in a Flawed System: the challenges of mainstreaming excellence in technical education’ highlighted the missed opportunity to spread the learnings that Training Managers accrue from international competitions to help achieve world-class standards. The WorldSkills UK Centre of Excellence will change this.

Despite the current challenges that are facing the FE sector, we had an excellent response from colleges who wanted to be part of the Centre of Excellence, which is initially running as a three-year pilot programme. This shows there is an incredible appetite in the sector to drive excellence in technical education and as a result, we will be re-opening the application process for colleges to join the Centre in its second year in 2021.  

The successful colleges selected to be part of the Centre in its first year will be appointed a WorldSkills UK High Skills Performance Coach, who will support staff to enhance their teaching, learning and assessment provisions by developing curriculum to embed world-class competencies and practices. Drawing on their experience of training young people to compete at higher technical levels at WorldSkills, the coaches will help teaching staff to adopt world-class standards through the application of new techniques and practices in technical skills development. This will provide enhanced approaches to formative and summative assessment. Key to the success of the WorldSkills UK Centre of Excellence, will be our global network of experts and trainers. They will work with our Coaches to ensure that the insight we gain into the latest international industry standards through our current preparations for WorldSkills Shanghai 2021 is fed directly back into the FE system.

Later this year, we will be launching The Centre of Excellence Digital Workshop Programme. Available to all colleges throughout the UK, the free digital resources will support teaching staff to embed world-class techniques and practices into teaching and learning environments.

The WorldSkills UK Centre of Excellence will give access and insights into elite, world-class training methods to help some 40,000 young people, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, get the best possible quality training available to set them up for life.

Parisa Shirazi, Head of Skills Development and International Competitions, WorldSkills UK

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