Skills: Let's get the UK ahead of global competition

Now is the time to enhance the country's global standing, and WorldSkills can help do that, writes Neil Bentley-Gockmann

This is the time to boost the country's standing in the world, writes Neil Bentley-Gockmann

We are now officially on the road to Shanghai. We have selected a group of young people who are now in with a chance of making Team UK to represent us at the next "skills Olympics": WorldSkills Shanghai in 2021.

And announcing Squad UK has given me cause to reflect on how WorldSkills UK can help the economy become more productive as we prepare for the future beyond Brexit at the end of this month. I think that our work with UK-wide and global partners can be a real catalyst for change as we develop the next generation of higher technically skilled professionals the economy needs to better compete internationally. And I believe we can help drive change in three ways.

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Global top 10

Firstly, we can help enhance the UK’s global standing. The UK slipped out of the top 10 leading nations at the "skills Olympics" last summer in Russia, for the first time in a decade. So we need to invest more in Squad UK right now, as they are beginning their training for WorldSkills Shanghai in 2021.

As the fifth largest economy in the world, the UK must regain its top 10 position alongside China, Russia, Korea, Brazil, Japan and Singapore. And we need to use this global platform better as a showcase for UK skills excellence to support international trade ambitions and foreign inward investment to help maintain and create jobs across the UK.

Secondly, we can help make technical education and apprenticeships more prestigious by mainstreaming excellence to drive up quality of training. We are working on plans for our international experts, who train Team UK to world-class standards for international competition, to transfer their know-how to a network of colleges and training providers, helping create a new cadre of world-class technical education teachers.

We will need more investment in this to scale up and have a transformative and sustained impact for as many young people as possible.

Thirdly, we can help transform future prospects for millions. Our work this year has had a reach of more than 165 million people, and I believe that considering to bid to host WorldSkills in the UK over the next decade could really galvanise activities across the skills system to help inspire more parents and young people and create a sustainable legacy of excellence.

Hosting WorldSkills in the UK would not only entail welcoming more than 80 other nations in a global youth skills competition, but also a global skills ministers’ summit and a global skills conference, putting the UK skills systems on the world stage. A bid could also include an innovative programme of activities showcasing excellence in technical education and apprenticeships in the years before and after the event to make technical career routes aspirational for more and more young people.

We at WorldSkills UK are ambitious for the future and, I believe, as the country prepares for Brexit and Squad UK starts out on the Road to Shanghai, there’s never been a better time to support our work and invest in excellence.

Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann is chief executive of WorldSkills UK

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