The UK Skills 2010 competitions are now in full swing up and down the country, with thousands of young people participating. I know from my own college’s experience of hosting competitions that the excitement and apprehension at these events will be almost palpable. What will heighten the tension this year is that 2010 presents a unique opportunity for the successful participants to gain a place in Team UK and to go forward to represent their country at the next WorldSkills event in London from 5-8 October, 2011.
WorldSkills London 2011 will be a national celebration of achievement in vocational skills as well as an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the quality of vocational education and training in the UK. We need to raise national esteem for vocational skills and London 2011 provides a seminal opportunity to do this.
Indeed the call for host venues for 2011 has now gone out and UK Skills look forward to receiving applications. The selection process for Team UK is now moving up a notch. Needless to say, the Training Managers are critical to the success of our team. They will coach and develop the competitors – not only in terms of their vocational skills but also their psychological stamina and resilience, which play an equally important part in success. Many of the Training Managers have now been selected but there is still a need for talented colleagues in areas as diverse as Jewellery, Wall and Floor Tiling, Automobile Technology, Afro-Caribbean Hairdressing and Visual Merchandising.
North West Region
Here in the North West we are very proud of the work of Training Managers, Karl Vella, Andrew McLean and Sue Simpson. Sue, Andrew and Karl have a great track record of working with young people over many years and helping them bring medals back to the UK.
The North West is proud that two young people from the region represented their country at WorldSkills Calgary in 2009. Christopher Coates (CNC Milling) trained at Reaseheath College while working at Bentley Motors whilst Joe Massey, who brought home a Bronze medal for Floristry, trained at St Helen’s College.
But whether it’s taking part in a regional heat, a national final or the WorldSkills event itself, all the young people agree that it’s a superb way of building their confidence and self-esteem at the same time as improving their technical skills. And for their tutors in college, they would argue that participation in the competitions builds very successfully on our mission in FE to raise aspiration and ambition at the same time as developing vocational excellence.
As WorldSkills UK Champion for the North West, an essential element of my role is to raise awareness of the benefits of getting involved in UK Skills for the young people themselves, for their colleges or private training providers and for their employers.
At Blackpool and The Fylde College, participation in competitions is a key element of our approach to raising standards. As well as developing our learners’ self-belief, they are a great way of motivating and incentivising students. For our staff, the competitions have provided really good professional development in terms of benchmarking best practice with other colleges and strengthening understanding of what constitutes excellence. Where staff have worked as training managers and judges, it’s also helped to raise the bar in terms of quality and standards and staff have built up really valuable peer networks with colleagues from other colleges.
There is a tremendous amount of support from key stakeholders in the North West for UK Skills and I am extremely appreciative of the work they do. Maureen Mellor, Principal of Liverpool Community College, is working with the Merseyside colleges to promote awareness and raise levels of participation and Steve Gray, Chief Executive of Training 2000, is doing a similar job with the private providers in our region. The North West Development Agency, the LSC and the AoC have all been very active in lending their support and this was demonstrated most recently by the promotion of UK Skills at the Skills North West event that attracted over 14,000 young people from across the region.
However, needless to say, there is still more to be done! In the North West, we have set ourselves the challenge in the run-up to WorldSkills London 2011 to ensure there is information on the websites of all those engaged in the skills agenda. And the champions’ network is trying to encourage all colleges and training providers to share their success stories and their good practice through their websites.
WorldSkills London 2011 will approach very fast and UK Skills Chief Executive, Simon Bartley, has called for support to create the best team and the best event possible. In a time of recession, it is essential to sustain an ever stronger regional skills base and as a region we should look to ways in which we can individually and collectively respond to Simon’s request. I look forward to working with colleagues and key stakeholders across the region to support WorldSkills 2011 and to build on the legacy of the event for the benefit of our young people.
Pauline Waterhouse, is principal and chief executive of Blackpool and The Fylde College