Dee Aylett-Smith, Head of National Competitions and Careers Advice, WorldSkills UK

We can’t ignore the significant impact the coronavirus pandemic continues to have on education and skills provision in the UK. Even with the much welcome news this week that young people in colleges and other further education providers can return for face-to face teaching from March 8, there is a huge task to be faced in supporting those that have lost out on learning due to the pandemic.

A key part of that support will be helping young people understand the full range of opportunities available to them. That’s why the focus on careers advice and guidance and raising standards in training in the ‘Skills for Jobs’ White paper, published earlier this year was very much welcomed. 

Providing young people with access to increased online careers advice and resources to support them in their chosen skill area was key to WorldSkills UK’s response to the Covid pandemic. Almost year ago, we set out our commitment to help young people who had been disproportionately affected by the Covid crisis and as we get ready to take the first steps back to normality, that commitment continues. 

Increasing our online careers advice and guidance for thousands of young people not yet in work

Firstly, we are increasing 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 more informed choices about their next steps. We delivered our first Spotlight Talks: Inspiring Careers Excellence, in partnership with BAE Systems, earlier this year to over 100,000 registrants. Featuring inspiring presentations from organisations including BAE Systems, National Apprenticeship Service and the Royal Navy, 78% of young people watching said that they felt inspired. With 79% of educators saying they were better able to advise students after watching.

We know delivering virtual careers advice is fundamental to supporting young people on road to Covid recovery. This was highlighted in recent research from the Careers and Enterprise Council which found that 72% of schools say careers guidance is more important than ever due to Covid and 76% of business leaders now say that there is an increased need for employers to support young people trying to enter the workplace. Working with partners in education and industry, we are gearing up to deliver our second Spotlight Talks: Inspiring Careers Excellence on Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25 March.

This event will feature talks from the NHS, Science Council, and many more. In addition to this, we have updated our Careers Advice Toolkit, to ensure the content can be used to support independent online learning as well as careers Esports Association curriculum delivered in the classroom or virtually. The Tookit is mapped against the Careers Development Institute, Skills Builder and the Gatsby Benchmark Frameworks, enabling young people to explore technical and apprenticeship career pathways.  

Programme of national competitions will return this year

Secondly, we are excited to announce that our programme of national competitions will return this year. We know the positive impact that our competitions-based training programmes can have on young people who are studying or in training and we have been working with our competition organising partners to ensure that this programme of activity can be delivered in a safe and effective way, with all competitions being assessed in a Covid secure environment. Registration will open from 19 April until 14 May, with the National Qualifiers taking place from 24 May until 16 July.

To support your learners in preparing for this year’s WorldSkills UK Competitions, we have produced a pre-competition guide which will help ensure their participation benefits their training programmes. Alongside this, we are continuing to deliver remote training to our Squad UK members who are preparing for WorldSkills Shanghai 2022. 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.  

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Thirdly, we have brought together our partners from across the skills system to form an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group. The group will support us in reaching young people from all backgrounds to ensure they can benefit from our career advice and training programmes. To help shape our competition-based training programmes, we have started working in partnership with Oldham College, Dudley College of Technology, South Staffordshire College and Barking & Dagenham College to gain a deeper understanding of barriers to engagement with our programmes. Both these initiatives have been developed in response to research by The Social Innovation Partnership which looked at how we could improve accessibility to our skills development programmes to support more young people, from all walks of life, reach their potential. We will be working with the students, apprentices, staff and network of employers at each of the colleges to support their own diversity engagement activities through the wider embedding of our training methods into their curriculum innovation.

We know there is still much to do to support young people who have had their education and training disrupted as a result of the pandemic. By working with our partners, we are determined to continue to share our knowledge and expertise to help more young people make important decisions about their future and to reach their full potential.

Dee Aylett-Smith, Head of National Competitions and Careers Advice, WorldSkills UK

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