From education to employment

Working together to showcase our skills

Ahead of the 2012 SKillELECTRIC competition, Iain Macdonald, chief executive of the competition’s main sponsors, National Electrotechnical Training (NET), discusses the importance of collaboration between industry and the Education sector in apprentice training.

While skills competitions may not enjoy the same high profile as the Olympics, they matter just as much to those involved, as the Games do to the athletes. These events demonstrate the extraordinary level of skill that apprentices are capable of achieving when they work effectively together with employers and education providers.

More than this, competitions are a powerful platform for showcasing life in a skilled sector. One example of this is SkillELECTRIC, the electrical industry’s premier skills event. This takes place over three days in November this year at the Skills Show at the NEC.

Being part of the Skills Show is a unique opportunity, offering unparalleled access to young people training across the whole gamut of industry sectors. With more than 100,000 visitors expected, particularly schoolchildren and educators, the apprentices participating have a unique chance to ‘inspire a generation’. The aim is to demonstrate to attendees the value of the vocational route to a future, often lifelong career.

The SkillELECTRIC event puts the very best apprentices on the electrical installation programme through their paces. They will participate in the competition in specially designed rigs, working on installations based on real life scenarios. This will provide spectators with a live demonstration of exactly the kind of tasks and methodology involved in the role of the electrician. While those competing are keen to showcase their skills, all apprentices on the electrical industry’s recognised Level 3 apprenticeship training path receive advanced Level 3 tuition and can look forward to a future of strong employability.

The education sector plays perhaps the lead role in developing, supporting and driving skills competitions across the UK. The electrical installation industry is very fortunate to benefit from this cooperation and support. Underpinning the talent on display at the SkillELECTRIC final are the colleges all over the UK who have been instrumental in helping the competitors reach this point. From training the candidates and encouraging learners to take part each year, and facilitating and hosting the regional heats across the UK, the input and commitment from the training community has been essential.

That commitment is paying off. After years of failing to be recognised as an aspirational career choice, the unique value of vocational training is gaining greater respect. The attendance of the Lord Mayor of London, and the then Skills Minister at last year’s WorldSkills event illustrates how much progress has been made and underlines the Government’s strong focus on vocational training.

Collaboration between education and industry is crucial to a strong apprenticeship and, via these competitions, it is also an effective partnership to show what skilled sectors can do. However, this partnership goes beyond skills competitions. In reality, both parties work to ensure that the academic and practical training given to an apprentice mirrors the requirements of the sector they are going to be working in. This approach means an apprentice’s time in the classroom is restricted to studying exactly what the industry feels they need to know to do their job proficiently. The key benefit of this is the freedom it gives to focus on practical skills, resulting in a win for everyone – a confident, competent professional, with a bright future.

Iain Macdonald is chief executive of National Electrotechnical Training (NET), the independent training charity for the electrical installation industry

Related Articles