From education to employment

Liz Smith, director of unionlearn, writes her exclusive monthly column for FE News

Mick was excited but a little scared when he found out he was going to be a dad. His mind scrolled ahead and he thought about his son or daughter coming home from school and asking him to help with homework. He hadn”t had a good experience at school and never thought he would need to bother with reading and writing. Mick’s story is typical of a lot of people I meet, who decide that they need to revisit their basic skills. With the help of a supportive employer and dedicated union learning reps, he tackled his lack of skills. Now he is part of the management team and reads his son bedtime stories ““ two equally great achievements!

As we all know in the FE sector and at all levels of learning, learners reap great rewards in all sorts of ways. Most increase their confidence levels and self esteem, others discover a skill or talent previously unknown. Some even win gold medals. That’s right, every two years the World Skills competitions are held, which are an “Olympic style” event. Participants from 48 countries compete to win medals in their chosen skill, which range from Milinery to Mechatronics and Web Design to Welding. What’s so important about this event, which will next be held in November in Japan, is that young people have the opportunity of being intensively trained by skilled mentors, thanks to the work of UK Skills. Apart from giving these young people self-esteem and confidence in their skills, the World Skills competition also brings a touch of glamour. Gold medal winners really are the best in the world and employers also benefit from knowing they have a real talent within their midst. The competition also develops the participants” skills in teamwork, preparing for competition and certainly stress management!

World Skills is just one platform on which skills are being showcased. The posters are everywhere and the painted hands are reaching out to millions. The Government’s skills campaign, Our Future. It’s in Our Hands is bringing the skills debate into front rooms and gyms, canteens and workplaces and really making people sit up and take notice. And it’s a mark of the Government’s commitment to one of the most important issues to face UK workers and businesses. But as we all know, the campaign will depend on many different partners all pulling together to achieve the same ambitions ““ increasing people’s confidence, their skills base, their earning power and crucially, encouraging people and employers to engage in learning.

All across the country people are beginning to think about improving their skills, their prospects and their earning capacity and whether it’s the World Skills competitions or taking that first initial skills assessment test, then real progress is being made towards creating a World Class Skills base in the UK.

Liz Smith, Director, unionlearn

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