Europe needs to continue to invest in skills and vocational education if it is to not fall behind Far Eastern countries like China and South Korea, the president of WorldSkills has said.
Speaking exclusively to Tes, Simon Bartley, who is this week attending European Vocational Skills Week in Brussels, said the European nations should not be disheartened with their performance at last month’s WorldSkills competition in Abu Dhabi, where China and South Korea topped the league table in terms of medal success, followed by Switzerland.
“Europe shouldn’t be disheartened – they held up well against the Far East,” said Mr Bartley. “But Europe needs to wake up and see that there is an immense investment in skills in the Far East – and if that holds up at the pace it is developing, then Europe is going to suffer.”
Mr Bartley, who has been named as an “ambassador” for the European celebration of vocational education and training, led by the European Commission, also said Team UK, which came 10th in the medal table, should be “pleased” with its performance.
'Still in the top 10'
“They are still in the top 10 in the world. As a team performance, they can be pleased.” However, he said the fact most of the team’s successes had not been in “technical skills”, such as engineering and information technology, was something to consider.
“It is all very well getting medals in some of the other areas,” said Mr Bartley, “The UK also needs to look at the quality of the manufacturing and engineering”.
He said there was still some way to go in establishing the importance of skills training in the UK. “I am not sure that the UK has really fully bought into the fact and understood the dynamics that this is not an education issue anymore, it is an economic, wellbeing issue. Other countries, like Switzerland and Austria, have always done apprenticeships and have always had training as a requirement for industries in their country.”
He added: “I don’t think we have every persuaded industry that education is essentially about making them more money. Skills competitions are almost now an indicator of the health of engagement with young people in a work environment which is outside university.”
At last month’s WorldSkills competition, Team UK secured seven medals, as well as 13 Medallions of Excellence, which are given to those competitors who achieve the world-class standard in their skills.