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    As The Manchester College prepares to be one of the host colleges for the 2017 WorldSkills UK Selection for WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017, its Principal, Lisa O’Loughlin, talks about hosting the selection of Team UK and the wider impact of competitions on enhancing apprenticeship and training programmes.

    It is probably no surprise that Greater Manchester has been chosen to host the selection of the WorldSkills UK team.

    With facilities that are second-to-none, investment thanks to the Government’s Northern Powerhouse initiative and an area bursting with talent, the region is the perfect place for WorldSkills to scout for a strong team to represent the UK in Abu Dhabi later this year.

    Indeed, we here at The Manchester College and our partner colleges in the region, Trafford and Stockport, are looking forward to welcoming competitors from around the world to Greater Manchester.

    But why is WorldSkills so important to the development of our young people?

    I believe the event gives students the opportunity to gain inspiration from each other and provides institutions like ours the chance to show the world how we nurture and train our young people to be the best they can be.

    Competitions accelerate a young person’s career by providing a mechanism to develop technical skills and the high-level employability skills that employers say they need. They also offer advanced training – so an apprentice at Level 3 could be working at three to four years above their age group as a result.

    Young people have the chance to pitch themselves against their peers, which is fantastic for their confidence and really builds their employability skills. In fact, we know that experience of competitions does an awful lot to make young people more appealing to employers – some of our former and current learners are evidence of this.

    Just one of our shining examples is Ryan Unwin, a former WorldSkills finalist who has forged a successful and fulfilling career in refrigeration and air conditioning, thanks to the tutelage he received here at The Manchester College and the encouragement of his tutors to show off his skills in various competitions.

    He was a finalist in the UK squad for WorldSkills in 2015 in Sâo Paulo, Brazil, while studying for both NVQ Levels 2 and 3 at the College as an apprentice at Manchester-based Bruntwood Management Services.

    Now, he is a full-time engineer at Bruntwood and has gone on to win a number of awards for his work, including the Harry Decker Award for Excellence in refrigeration and air conditioning and Air Conditioning Engineer of the Year in the North West Training Awards.

    Ryan was encouraged to move out of his comfort zone, to enter competitions and really show off what he can do on a regional, national and international level.

    And I believe this encouragement can only be a good thing for our students and apprentices.

    Imagine being a young person who may not have had the opportunity to travel before, who is now in a foreign country about to pit themselves against some of the best young talent in the world?

    Daunting, I’m sure, but this really does help to develop students as people, not just as skilled professionals with a strong work ethic.

    Equipping people with the skills they need to grow in their careers is at the heart of what we do at The Manchester College. Having the right skills to progress in a chosen career leads to job satisfaction, which increases productivity and ultimately drives the economy.

    And this is exactly what our employers, and also politicians, want. Chancellor Phillip Hammond, in his Spring budget, repeated the Government’s commitment to the Northern Powerhouse and its industrial strategy. The Government is pushing through with a new system of technical education which will replace thousands of qualifications with 15 core technical routes, designed to respond to the needs of industry.

    The Chancellor has underlined that for the UK economy to compete, we have to link technical skills to jobs. And he emphasised the Government target to expand the total number of apprentices in England to three million by 2020. As educators, we need to adapt to this and competitions like WorldSkills, which is designed by industry experts and focuses on the highest UK and international standards, can only be a positive way of enhancing apprenticeship and training programmes.

    First-class facilities are also hugely important to bring out the best in competitors, and indeed students all-year round. At our Openshaw campus this year, we will be hosting competitions in mechatronics, auto-body repair, aircraft maintenance and car painting.

    Our automotive department is a real asset to our College and our students and to be chosen to host these competitions is a real honour.

    The very best of luck to all competitors!

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