Why it's important to benchmark skills internationally

Setting a world-class standard will not only help the next generation but also our economy, says Neil Bentley-Gockmann
9th November 2020, 4:40pm


Why it's important to benchmark skills internationally

Skills: Implementing World Class-standards Across Fe Will Help Grow The Economy, Says Worldskills Uk

The postponement of WorldSkills Shanghai was a huge disappointment for us all, not least the young women and men in training for the competition. Yet, their response, which was one of reinvigorated commitment as they reset their sights on 2022, confirmed to me that we must use this time to bring even more to the fore our growing international work to harness insights from WorldSkills' global network to help mainstream excellence in training across the UK, setting a new level of ambition.  

The determination of our Squad UK members shows that if we set our sights on excellence as the standard young people should expect in their training, we can motivate more young women and men, from all walks of life, to take up technical career routes and apprenticeships. Failure to do so means we are not only selling short the next generation but also the future of the economy and the country.

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Focusing on excellence and the creation of a "skills economy" should be at the core of the forthcoming further education White Paper for England and be tightly aligned to a post-Covid refresh of the UK industrial strategies. A clearer sense of opportunities for investment and job creation across nations and regions, underpinned by the skills required by each sector, needs to be mapped out so colleges and training providers can meet economic need. Driving local and regional regeneration will help to retain and attract foreign direct investment, but only if we deliver the high-quality standard of skills that employers and investors need.

The value of WorldSkills

And we need to honestly acknowledge that this is not always the case right now. Research undertaken by the University of Oxford for WorldSkills UK suggests that standards of qualifications and training are set too often to simply deliver competence, despite employers' long-standing demands for higher quality skillsets and mindsets in young people coming into the labour market. A key recommendation from this research was that we at WorldSkills UK set up a mechanism for mainstreaming our know-how to train more and more young people to world-class standards.

That's why we have, in partnership with NCFE, set up a Centre of Excellence to help mainstream our insights to boost teacher training in colleges to standards of excellence, seeking to support the development of 40,000 young people.  This has not only met pent-up demand from college leaders - with over a quarter of colleges in the UK seeking to be part of the first year - but also chimes with the public mood and economic need. Our recent opinion polling confirms there is broad public support for high-quality technical education and apprenticeships - with almost three-quarters of people saying it should be government priority.

We have also invited our partners in education, governments and industry to share with us what excellence in skills means for them in a recent collection of essays. Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK demonstrated how it has successfully embedded WorldSkills standards to drive up performance. Whilst BAE Systems discusses how participation in our competitions-based training programmes provides a springboard for its apprentices' future. The collection of skills essays speaks volumes about how and why high standards in technical education are important, and our contributors have given us plenty to think about in terms of how we can evolve our role to support all parts of skills systems across the UK to mainstream excellence. So, we need to do more.

That's why this week we are convening more partners from across the UK and internationally at our International Skills Summit to discuss the importance of high-quality education and apprenticeships for young people and the economy.  We are also partnering with the Department for International Trade to exchange best practice with counterparts in China this month and we are working with other countries, such as Chinese Taipei, Australia, Japan and South Korea to build on previous insights gained from Russia, Switzerland and Singapore.

As we reset our sights on WorldSkills in Shanghai in 2022, we will continue to benchmark against other countries to do more to mainstream excellence in the UK. And in doing so, we will also work to help firmly embed something that has been highlighted during lockdown: a collective recognition of the importance and value of skilled work to us all and the need to tackle vocational snobbery head-on, regaining a sense of pride in young people choosing high-quality technical education and apprenticeships as routes to real success in work and life. This will not only create better prospects for the next generation but also a better future for the economy and our country.

Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE is chief executive of WorldSkills UK

The WorldSkills UK International Skills Summit takes place from 11-12 November. For more information visit www.worldskillsuk.org

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