From education to employment

The UK’s unsung heroes

Behind every UK WorldSkills competitor there is a dedicated and supportive training manager and WorldSkills expert. This individual oversees all aspects of the technical training and development of identified potential UK competitors in the build-up to a WorldSkills Competition. This month’s column focuses on the joint roles of these training managers and WorldSkills experts, who are without a doubt the unsung heroes of WorldSkills competitions.

The biennial WorldSkills cycle for the UK starts with the search for an exceptional person who will put most of their free time on hold in order to promote the interests of the skill that they love. They must be passionate about their skill and also be at the top of their game when it comes to international standards both for the skill and for best practice in training.

While training managers/WorldSkills experts may come from any walk of life associated with their skill, the generous ethos of the education and training sector means that many will be drawn from colleges. Increasingly, too, we can count on the support of companies that recognise their own ultimate dependence on the quality and skills of their workforces.

The core role of the training manager/WorldSkills expert is to represent their skill at the highest international level, and to manage the technical training and development of potential and selected WorldSkills competitors. Most of those appointed are able to contribute up to 50 days per year to the role because their employers donate their time or rearrange their duties to fit in with the WorldSkills schedule. In these circumstances UK Skills reciprocates, at least to an extent, by offering each the opportunity to undertake a new Postgraduate Masters Programme in Performance Coaching and Management, validated by the University of Cumbria.

From when potential short listed competitors are identified, and often before, our training managers/WorldSkills experts plan, organise and oversee an intensive programme of training and assessment for a year or more. During this time they take promising potential competitors performing to UK industry standards, and transform their skills to match the best in the world, whether they are the best to be found in the UK, or the best among the UK’s fiercest competitors.

The journey starts with skills audits benchmarked to world class standards; then inputs training to meet those standards; assessing each competitor to ensure that progress and performance are on target, and reviews and adjusts the training plan accordingly. This is all monitored and supported through the virtual learning environment called Moodle™. Throughout the programme, training managers/WorldSkills experts adopt performance coaching techniques, which are founded on the belief that people have it in them to perform at the highest level if their talents and skills can be unlocked.

Michael Burdett is the training manager/WorldSkills expert for Bricklaying at WorldSkills Calgary 2009. Michael was appointed in 2006 and supported a competitor at WorldSkills Shizuoka 2007, so this is his second cycle in the role. Michael’s direct experience of WorldSkills Shizuoka 2007 has been very useful in helping him to audit exactly where his current competitors are in terms of their training and performance, compared to where they need to be in Calgary.

When asked what he enjoys most about his role as a training manager and UK expert, Michael replied: "I enjoy working with extremely skilled, motivated young people and working alongside other experts in their specific fields!"

A number of months ago Michael reflected on the Squad members for Calgary 2009, and commented: "We’ve covered a lot of the basic skills, especially accuracy, and I have been trying to build up my competitors’ knowledge of international standards and what they actually look like. At this moment I think that the competitors are about 15 to 20% away from the WorldSkills international standard."

When planning the training, training managers/WorldSkills experts have to decide how much of the training will be done by them, and how much by third parties, often known as associate trainers. The choice of approach will depend upon the particular skill, the specialist skills and available time of the training manager/WorldSkills expert, and access to outstanding facilities, workplaces and skills within the UK and across the world.

The interactive and close relationship that they develop with their competitors offers a unique and privileged opportunity for their competitors to experience true excellence at first hand. Whether or not the competitors get to a WorldSkills Competition, their training on the way is invaluable for their future development, their pride in their chosen skill, and their workmanship. Once at a WorldSkills Competition the training managers/WorldSkills experts shed their developmental role and become the keepers of the international standard for their skill, within a world community of experts. In this role, and without compromising standards, the UK expert has to argue for their specific competition to represent best practice as seen in the UK.

Over the last decade it has become even clearer to us that training managers/WorldSkills experts hold the key to successful performance in WorldSkills competitions. Whilst they need talented young people to work with, their own qualities and commitment are vital in creating a successful competitor.

I hope that when we announce this year’s Team UK members at the end of the month, people will take time to think about the training managers/WorldSkills experts who have brought Team UK thus far, and are intent on their success on the world stage.

I have taken the liberty of listing each one of our training managers and their employers, for without their time, effort and dedication we simply would not be able to enter a UK team in the WorldSkills Competition. I take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to each and every one of them.

Training Managers

  • Jonnah Jones, Royal Air Force – Aircraft Maintenance

  • Karl Vella, The Karl Vella Group – Autobody Repair

  • Ian Eustace, Warwickshire College – Automobile Technology

  • Paul Cooper, Peterborough Regional College – Automobile Technology

  • Sue Simpson, self employed training consultant – Beauty Therapy

  • Mike Burdett, York College – Bricklaying

  • Peter Legg, retired – Cabinet Marking

  • Bill Jones, self employed training consultant – Car Painting

  • Pat Phillips, self employed tTraining cConsultant – Carpentry

  • Andrew McLean, Bentley Motors Ltd – CNC Milling

  • Craig Endicott, self employed training consultant – CNC Turning

  • Yolande Stanley, Thames Valley University – Confectioner/Pastry Cook

  • Michael Godfrey, Sodexo at Eton College – Cooking

  • David Thomas, Electrical Contractors’ Association – Electrical Installation

  • Victoria Mawhinney, Cameron – Addison Design and Consultancy – Fashion Technology

  • Stephanie Willoughby, Plumpton College – Floristry

  • Robert Rousseau, Warwickshire College – Hairdressing

  • Ray Coyle – Athlone College – Industrial Electronics

  • Jen Bell, Northumberland College – IT PC Network & Support

  • Adrian Lawrence, self employed training consultant – Jewellery

  • Paul Tierney, Oxford & Cherwell Valley College – Joinery

  • Harry Turner, Askham Bryan College – Landscape Gardening

  • Matthew Bell, Bridgwater College – Mechanical Engineering CADD

  • Peter Walters, Stoke-on- Trent College – Painting and Decorating

  • Paul Dodds, North Hertfordshire College – Plumbing

  • Mark Forsyth, Coriolis International Ltd = Refrigeration

  • Ian Whitaker, Cairngorm Mountain Group – Restaurant Service

  • Kevin Calpin , York College – Stonemasonry

  • Jennie James, Milton Keynes College – Web Design

  • Santé Susca, Lincoln Electric UK – Welding

  • Delia Suffling, retired – IT Office Software Applications

  • Michelle Rolston, self employed consultant – Graphic Design Technology

  • Bill McGawley, TDR Group – Manufacturing Team Challenge

  • John O’Neil , Barnfield College Luton – Information Network Cabling

  • Peter Moore, Cleveland and Redcar College – Plastering & Dry Wall Systems

Simon Bartley is chief executive of UK Skills, which champions learning through competitions and awards


Read other FE News articles by Simon Bartley:

UK Squad undergoing tough training for Calgary 2009

UK Skills chief Simon Bartley: Country needs to ‘pull together and regroup’

Simon Bartley unveils Squad UK


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