Emma Roberts, Head of Research and Public Affairs, WorldSkills UK

@WorldskillsUK last week hosted its first ever International Skills Summit bringing together high-profile speakers from UK governments, education and business to promote the importance of delivering skills excellence to build back better.

The event was a critical part of WorldSkills UK’s fundamental ambition to mainstream excellence in skills, using our access to the WorldSkills international network of well over 80 countries and our world-class training methodology to bring best practice in skills development back to the UK.

With 10 live sessions and 29 speakers the event covered a wide range of topics from productivity in the automotive sector, to developing digital skills in construction. We picked up tips from Chinese Taipei and Australia about how they’re promoting skills to rebuild their economies and cope with challenges such as automation. And we heard from two current skills ministers and two previous skills ministers about how they see WorldSkills UK and skills competition training methods playing a key role in embedding excellence in technical education.

Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills Gillian Keegan MP spoke passionately about the need to improve the prestige of technical education stating that “we must tackle this absurd notion that you’ve somehow failed if you don’t go to university” and emphasised how WorldSkills UK’s competitors and training managers are fantastic ambassadors in challenging these perceptions.

With a wide variety of sessions and speakers it was, I hope, an event that had something for everybody, but for me there were three key messages that I will take away:

Firstly, WorldSkills UK must think big about the future and get serious about hosting an international WorldSkills competition.

With all UK governments prioritising skills development there is a real opportunity to galvanise support for technical education by bringing the ‘skills olympics’ back to the UK for the first time since 2011, raising the prestige of technical education and literally bringing into people’s living rooms the importance of skills in the way that WorldSkills Kazan 2019 did for Russia.

In their joint interview Robert Halfon MP and the Right Hon Anne Milton both reiterated their support for this to happen with Robert Halfon calling it a ‘no-brainer’ and Anne Milton saying that this would be a great way for the Government to signal its seriousness about skills. The task for WorldSkills UK now is to scope out in more detail how this would work and make it an opportunity that can’t be missed.

Secondly, there is more WorldSkills UK can do right now to help embed excellence in skills.

For example, it is clear that digital skills are a priority for everyone in education, government and industry and I believe it’s important that we are aware of these trends and ready to respond to them. We will therefore be embarking on a new digital research project in the next month, which will inform practical steps that we can work on with our partners to help promote digital careers to young people and make sure young women and men can excel in those skills.

With a refreshed industrial strategy on the horizon we’ll be keen to see how we can help develop skills excellence in other priority areas of the economy too.

Thirdly, there is a clear demand for information, best practice and discussion about skills excellence.

At such a busy time for all of our stakeholders in education, governments and industry we were delighted to have well over 200 people tuning in to our international skills summit and hopefully taking away valuable insights that will help drive skills development all over the UK.

With more research and events planned over the next six months and an International Skills Summit in 2021 we look forward to engaging even more stakeholders on our shared ambition to mainstream excellence in skills.

Emma Roberts, Head of Research and Public Affairs, WorldSkills UK

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