The UK has a wealth of young people who are currently either studying or training in skills-based careers, yet their talent is often overlooked. And in the past, "vocational" based skills and learning have been seen rather as the "ugly duckling" of the educational and career route. Yet without these young stars, the UK wouldn't and couldn't function properly. It's about time that attitudes to vocational skills changed.
With this in mind, I am calling for help in finding talented, skilled young people and asking them to enter one of the 70 WorldSkills UK competitions taking place this year. Entrants will compete in skills such as bricklaying, floristry, dressmaking, welding, mechatronics, information technology, beauty therapy and cooking. The winners will have the chance to be considered for selection to represent the UK at WorldSkills Calgary 2009, the largest skills-based competition in the world. But there isn't much time left, as the final date for applications is February 28.
At WorldSkills Shizuoka 2007, the UK came 11th out of 47 competing nations, winning a gold, a silver and two bronze awards and nine medallions of excellence. It is a result, we might note, that other UK national teams have yet to achieve. And it's not an easy feat. It is a tough, four-day competition with the added pressure of having some 200,000 spectators watching you at work. But it's worth it.
Competing at national and international levels has left competitors feeling more confident in their work, having a fantastic advantage over others when it comes to going for jobs, and has given them the ability to go far in their chosen careers. Past competitors have shot up the career ladder; some now run their own successful business and others work for prestigious companies.
Competitions of this nature not only encourage technical excellence and world-class standards, they also help the UK workforce of the future to develop other skills essential for a thriving economy, such as thinking under pressure and time management. Most importantly, they instill a passion for excellence.
If young people excel in a vocational skill, I encourage them to enter the 2008 WorldSkills UK competitions. Likewise, if employers or tutors have an outstanding student or employee, they should give them the chance to get recognition for their work by urging them to enter a competition.
It is also worth noting that WorldSkills will be held in London in 2011.
- Simon Bartley, Chief executive, UK Skills, Portland Place, London.