When the news came from Melbourne in May 2007 that we had won the UK wide bid to host WorldSkills 2011 in London, I was thrilled, as indeed were colleagues. This is a unique opportunity to showcase the UK’s vocational education and skills on a global stage. Our culture and the media have led us to become accustomed to celebrating achievements in a wide range of activities including, sport and the arts. There are, however, relatively few opportunities to shine the spotlight on outstanding vocational skills.

I was privileged to attend WorldSkills Calgary 2009, a fantastic event with more than a thousand competitors from around the world competing at the highest level. It was inspiring to see so many young people participating in so many different competitions, from engineering to floristry. The dedication and passion of the competitors was palpable and the event demonstrated just how high the bar has been raised.

WorldSkills London 2011 promises to be bigger and better, giving more young people the opportunity to represent their country and have their skills recognised on the world stage.

Raising awareness

A vital part of my ambassadorial role as a WorldSkills UK Champion is to raise awareness and encourage more people to become involved.

Colleges are well placed to spread the word, not only to young people, but to their parents and often their employers too who are really supportive once they understand what WorldSkills is all about. We also have excellent links with so many organisations including schools, private training providers, universities, employers and local authorities.

Raising awareness is especially important at this time. March 19 is the cut-off date for young people to enter the 2010 competitions and potentially qualify to compete in London 2011. I urge all colleges to encourage their talented students and apprentices to register. Colleges could also embed WorldSkills London 2011 into their promotional materials including links to related websites.

However, as the deadline fast approaches, we cannot become complacent. We need to keep up the momentum if we want to have the best possible Team UK for WorldSkills London 2011 and sow the seeds for WorldSkills Leipzig 2013 and future competitions. We also need a concerted campaign to industry to highlight the urgent need for financial and other resource support for WorldSkills and WorldSkills UK competition.

Highbury College Skilled & Talented Academy

At Highbury we have integrated skills competitions into everyday student life through our Skilled & Talented Academy which offers students, including apprentices, a chance to broaden their experience and take part in competitions and skills development workshops.

In 2009 we ran a number of expert classes as part of the 'From Competence to Excellence’ programme, which aimed to inspire those taking part by demonstrating the difference between satisfactory and outstanding skills.

We also hosted the first in a series of WorldSkills South East Global Radio Roadshows which included an inspirational speech from a Team UK silver medallist in IT at WorldSkills Montreal 1999. We are proud to be hosting several WorldSkills UK 2010 competitions.

South East Region

As WorldSkills UK Champion for the South East, my ultimate aim is to increase participation in competitions through a sustainable approach across the region, to raise aspirations, develop talent and showcase vocational excellence.

In this regard, I am immensely appreciative of the support of key stakeholders. Through SEESEL (South East Education Skills and Employment for London 2012), the SE LSC has partnered with UK Skills, SEEDA and the Alliance of Sector Skills Councils to support colleges, training providers and key business partners in activities towards WorldSkills London 2011. The partnership has provided advice, guidance and funding to deliver additional skills competitions and to identify talented young people eligible to compete at regional, national and international level.

AOSEC, the Association of South East Colleges, has also been supportive, promoting competitions and featuring news items via the AOSEC website. Through AOSEC’s staff development curriculum networks, UK Skills staff have given talks to colleges about staging competitions and staff from member colleges with a history of running competitions have offered practical advice.

The support of these key stakeholders has enabled the region to see improved involvement in competitions. Further promotional work is planned, culminating in our South East WorldSkills UK Activity Week (22-26 February 2010). The aims include boosting entries for this year’s cycle of competitions and the launch of our innovative South East Skills Competitions Network, a sustainable hub and spoke competitions model, led by college principal champions across the region.

I look forward to working with these principal champions and our key stakeholders to support WorldSkills London 2011 and to build on the legacy of the event for the benefit of our young people.

Stella Mbubaegbu is principal and chief executive of Highbury College Portsmouth and WorldSkills UK South East Regional Champion

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