It’s a New Year and there’s a fresh ‘60’s rock icons’ calendar on the wall. And hanging from the fridge magnet, that annual production, the list headed ‘Vicki’s New Year’s Resolutions 2010’.

Well as ever the list is a mix of personal and professional items. If you’re reading this, you’ll be interested in the professional resolutions so that’s what I’m sharing today. And I’m focussed on the last chance for young people to be part of the medal winning team in WorldSkills London 2011 competition. Can I recommend the resolutions to you too, adapted of course for your local circumstances.

Resolution 1: Spot talent in your colleges

My team of five London area WorldSkills UK Champion principals and I are tasked with making sure our peers and contacts help search out London’s top skills talent.

London FE colleges are bursting with talent. Between us, we offer programmes in every skill area which features in the WorldSkills competitions. Most of our teachers will have a good idea about the top performers. Sometimes it will take a local competition to motivate, stretch and bring out the best (see Resolution 3). With some notable exceptions, London punches below its weight in most of the skills competitions , and FE colleges are well positioned to help find all those who have potential to join in.

We are also in a great position to line up the talent, calling on all competitors from all backgrounds, which could make a real impact on the diversity of the UK’s final team for the 2011 competition. Looking back at international and national competitors, those from minority groups are a rarity. Yet most colleges in London have a wonderful rich mix of high performing students reflecting their diverse local catchments.

This resolution starts with a simple step for me: working with fellow champions throughout the UK, I’ll be asking FE colleges to put the spotlight on all the talent in their own classrooms and workshops.

Resolution 2: Encourage and support Londoners’ to compete

If we’re not in the race, we can’t w
in. London does produce winners, but we need more. In the 2009 WorldSkills UK finals competitions, London students won gold medals in Fine Jewellery Making, Landscape Gardening, Afro Caribbean Hairdressing Intermediate, Afro Caribbean Hairdressing Advanced, Popular Music, Mobile Robotics and Entrepreneurship Challenge. In previous years we’ve made national headlines in other subjects. The College of North West London was proud to support an exceptional electrical installation apprentice, 17 year old Minesh Patel, through to a silver medal in the national finals, with support too from his delighted employers Illumination UK Limited.

Gold medal winners in the 2009 WorldSkills UK competitions celebrated their success at a fabulous event at the Imax cinema last Autumn. For me, second only to the pride and joy of the individuals and teams with their tutors, training managers and employers, was the FE college sector’s success shining through. The majority of candidates were students or recent graduates of our extraordinary institutions, which have developed the confidence and skills of students to levels previously beyond their wildest imagination.

Look out colleges, the WorldSkills UK Champions will be knocking on your door to remind you to push your best talent forward for this year’s competitions. Go for it! For more information on the different WorldSkills UK Competitions please visit www.worldskillsuk.org.

Resolution 3: Get involved - Create more competition pathways

There are all sorts of ways FE colleges can create more stepping stones and support for competition participation without breaking the bank. And these can have spin-offs even greater than producing national or international medal winners.

My college’s biggest internal event is a competition day covering all our construction and engineering disciplines. Lord Young of Norwood Green dropped in last year wearing his apprentices and skills hat, to give the college event an official seal of approval. He was joined by many employers, school children and other visitors. It was during this day that the college created the showcase for Minesh Patel to demonstrate he has that ‘winning spark’ - great electrical installation skills, total focus and a thirst for performing at his best under competition conditions.

Other locally based inter-college events on the local patch have been equally successful. They have raised the standards and aspirations for everyone involved and have generated extensive positive local press coverage.

Colleges can and do produce some of the best training managers who go on to work for UK Skills helping to coach top performers for international competition participation, so London Champions will be reminding colleges of the benefits.

Some of us have world class training facilities which make excellent competition venues for regional WorldSkills UK and other competition events. This offers colleges a great opportunity to see official competition standards at first hand, to showcase facilities and get students involved and interested.

And finally - watch out for opportunities for your students to get involved in volunteering for the WorldSkills London 2011 to be held in the capital between 5th - 8th October, 2011. For more information, please visit www.worldskillslondon2011.com.

So, this is a special call to all colleges. Sign up now to my New Year Resolutions. Spot the learners with the best skills and attitude and see they are supported to run the race and help build the pathways for their success. Let’s show the world that our talented young people can win gold in 2011!

Vicki Fagg is principal of the College of North West London and a WorldSkills UK London Regional Champion


Note: Other London area WorldSkills UK champions are Marjorie Semple (West Thames College), Paul Head (College of North East London), Mariane Cavalli (Croydon College), Noel Otley (Havering College), and Sue Rimmer (South Thames College).

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