Each member of Team UK for WorldSkills London 2011, the world's largest international vocational skills competition, completes an intensive training programme managed by a dedicated Training Manager in the lead up to the competition, which takes place at ExCeL London (5-8 October). John O'Neill, deputy head of computing and IT, Barnfield College believes that WorldSkills Competitions are essential to help create a sustainable future for the UK's IT Networking industry. John O'Neill writes:

The IT industry has been a buzz recently with news that it is one sector that is expected to grow over the next few years. Indeed, a recent report by E-Skills stated that the UK's IT sector will need 500,000 new entrants over the next five years. Good news for new recruits, but questions have been raised over a potential skills shortage in the industry.

As a sector we need to work closely with industry to ensure that growth is not prevented by a lack of skilled employees. I believe that WorldSkills can play a part in helping to achieve this. By hosting the world's largest skills competition and jobs fair it is our opportunity to inspire the next generation of highly skilled professionals.

For the Competition, I have been training Team UK (IT Network Systems Administration) competitor Matthew Mack, 20, a successful graduate of Barnfield College. Matthew passed his Foundation Degree in Modern Telecommunications with Distinction and has gone on to achieve a 1st class BSc Honours degree. Matthew was invited to compete for a place in Team UK after excelling at the WorldSkills UK Competitions.

As part of Matthew's Team UK training, he has had the opportunity to gain extensive experience using Microsoft, Linux and Cisco Systems products to develop his skills further. Along the way, he has been able to take industry recognised vendor examinations and gain qualifications which set him apart from many of his peers. He has now demonstrated to the world that he can produce work to the highest international standard.

Matthew's training with Team UK has also seen him mature and develop professionally, as the competition brief essentially requires him to take on the role of an IT Networking project manager. This work entails complex problem solving tasks where Matthew has to use his knowledge and training to think quickly and on his feet. Matthew has been able to strengthen and develop these skills thanks to the training he has received from Team UK's training and development partner, Brathay Trust. This training has enabled Matthew to take part in team building exercises, learning how to work effectively and efficiently under pressure and also learn how to maintain focus in a busy competition environment. All of these skills learned have allowed Matthew to set himself apart from his peers as a highly employable and marketable candidate for any job.

Much of Matthew's training has taken place at Barnfield College, with great support from staff and students. Kevin Large, one of Barnfield College's IT Tutors, and former Barnfield student and WorldSkills Calgary 2009 competitor Hugo Landau part of my Team UK training team for Matthew, which is a great help.

At Barnfield, we see skills competitions as the building blocks in raising young people's motivational levels and overall performance. The competitions are also beneficial to staff development as well. Pete Birkitt, CEO at Barnfield College is very supportive and is a huge advocate of the ethos that comes with skills competition preparation and participation. Indeed, as a College we have seen the benefits of entering skills competition both at a national level with WorldSkills UK and at an international level with the WorldSkills Competition.

A visit to WorldSkills London 2011 from 5 – 8 October will allow you to see firsthand the benefits of skills competitions. I also hope that Team UK's performance will enthuse the many young visitors and show them the opportunities that can be generated by developing skills at the highest level. This is certainly something that will benefit those looking to forge a career in IT.

The members of Team UK have been and will continue to be supported in their training by Edge, the independent education foundation, the Premier Supporter of Squad and Team UK and Brathay Trust, the Premier Training and Development Partner of Squad and Team UK.

John O'Neill is deputy head of computing and IT at Barnfield College 

For more information on the next cycle of WorldSkills UK Competitions, visit www.worldskillsuk.org

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