WorldSkills UK has unveiled plans for a £1.5 million Centre of Excellence that aims to mainstream world-class level skills and deliver them to 40,000 young people across the UK.
The centre – which is to be opened in partnership with awarding body and education and skills charity NCFE, which has funded the project – will recruit five WorldSkills experts to travel around the country and educate FE lecturers on the international skills standards.
Initially, the centre will be a three-year pilot project, rolled out in September 2020. In the first year, 20 providers will be selected to receive this training, with this number gradually increasing to 120 providers by 2023.
Tes magazine: How WorldSkills trainers could raise standards across FE
Ben Blackledge, deputy CEO of WorldSkills UK, told Tes that the centre was about much more than creating a pipeline of WorldSkills competitors.
He said: "This isn't a very expensive way of getting more people involved in competitions; it's very much about how we support the development of world-class skills in the tutors and trainers.
"When it comes to the impact this will have on the students, we will be looking at things around achievement levels and destination data for students, things like satisfaction, recruitment and retention within staff and students.
"We're not using entries to WorldSkills competitions as the main barometer of success. This needs to have a wider impact. We don't want to be this white horse riding in to save the sector. It's about partnership and giving back to the sector."
Sharing international best practice
Each of the experts – who will all have experience of being a WorldSkills training manager – will work with four colleges each, upskilling staff within those providers through teaching them about international best practice, delivering training techniques used by Team UK and demonstrating how assessment is built into that training.
Through the year, the experts will also bring wider groups of colleges together to run one-off masterclasses, or day-training courses.
The Centre of Excellence will also focus on creating systematic change, and will work with the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, the Department for Education and awarding bodies on the curriculum, standards and assessments to make sure there is alignment with world-class standards and excellence.
The chosen experts will remain part of Team UK to ensure they retain the exposure to international standards and excellence and continue to feed back into the UK system.
David Gallagher, chief executive of NCFE, said that not enough was being done to support educators to be world-class – not just in knowledge but in soft skills, too.
"In this country, in technical education, we've taken education much too far down the science route," he said. "To be a world-class educator, first and foremost for me, it is an art, and that should be infused with science, research and evidence.
"But the ability to really inspire [students] to want to learn and then to learn to the best of their ability, to go on and get great education outcomes and to progress on to great careers and lives, that is an art form, and we have forgotten that a little bit. The WorldSkills training managers have experience to do that in swathes."
Mr Gallagher added: "We would be really happy to see other organisations get involved. There's so much we can do, but we want to galvanise the whole sector around the Centre of Excellence because when you boil down a lot of organisations in the same space, we all serve the same purpose to get the best possible return for learners through education."