Backing the next generation to secure our economic future

What to do in a time of confusion, fear and disruption: batten down the hatches and head below decks to ride out the storm – or ride the waves holding fast to ambitious plans for change?

With a global health crisis, mounting public debt and young people bearing the brunt of the new economic, social and educational reality, there was more than a semblance of cyclical serendipity, when we as a charity found ourselves grappling with that question last year. Because WorldSkills, a global coalition of over 85 countries propagating best practice in vocational training for young people, was forged in the second half of the 1940’s to help heal the economic wounds of a previous global crisis – war, pestilence and poverty.

So in the spirit of our WorldSkills founders, we made an irreversible decision to not just continue with reforming the way in which we work, but to put our foot on the accelerator and head for a new more expansive horizon.

What we have been doing successfully for over 60 years, as the UK member of WorldSkills, was finding the best of the best apprentices and college students from across the UK in more than 60 different disciplines. We would then form them into an elite team – and through an intensive period of advanced training – turn them in to world beaters. They fly the flag as Team UK representing this country in competition at Olympic-style global finals, against the best in the world, with a medal haul to prove the UK’s skills prowess.

Inspiring young people, developing their skillset and mindset and celebrating their achievements will always be the beating heart of our work. But as we looked ahead to future economic recovery needs, we knew we had to be more ambitious. So we set ourselves on a mission, building on our foundations and competitive success, to upgrade the quality of skills being developed to help businesses become more productive to create jobs for the next generation and boost the economy.

What we had to become was a skills innovation incubator. We set out to create a hub and spoke network sharing our unique knowledge and know-how gained through years of international benchmarking, turning our experience training to a world-class standard and harnessing our world-wide connections to impart global best practice to teachers and tens of thousands of young women and men.

Following diagnostic research by Oxford University, we created a vehicle to cascade world-class skills down to more than 40,000 young people in our Centre of Excellence and Innovation Network. Our elite team of world-class trainers was deployed to engage with hundreds of others in colleges across the country, training the trainers quickly and competently, enhanced with new digital resources, revealing the secrets of our international success so more young people, from all backgrounds, get a higher quality education. 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 of this programme – but it also chimes with the public mood. Our recent opinion polling confirms there is broad public support for high-quality technical education and apprenticeships.

As a globally facing organisation, which will be increasingly beneficial to a post Brexit UK, we have engaged with our peers in other leading industrial nations, including Japan, China, Korea, Russia and Taiwan, and are now signing formal international protocols to work together for mutual benefit. These include ongoing exchange of global best practice and training innovation such as virtual pressure tests, with young people in colleges and workplaces in the UK being tested and assessed online against their peers across the world. These are increasingly focussed on skills such as cyber security, electronics, computing, 3D game design, industry 4.0 and industrial robotics, while also continuing to support and drive up skills quality in other key sectors such as construction, engineering, hospitality and services.

Our next step is to begin work to help meet demand for a highly skilled workforce to support job creation in advanced manufacturing and clean tech to support developments in electric cars, offshore wind and digital across the UK, helping to secure inclusive economic growth. As a former deputy head of the CBI business group, I know that skills quality and supply are top of the list for many inward investment decisions – and Toyota, Jaguar Land Rover, Siemens and Amazon will all testify to the fact.

We knew we had a unique asset with unrivalled access to many of the key elements to unlocking the skills conundrum the country now faces and the Government in its recent white paper – Skills for Jobs – endorsed our approach and suggested others take a long hard look at the way we work.

The inimitable business and consumer journalist Steph McGovern – formerly of BBC and now at Channel 4 – has been our mainstream media champion as we take on the best of the rest nations at the finals of global competition. Steph has travelled to places as far afield as Sāo Paulo and Abu Dhabi cheering Team UK on to top 10 places in the finals of the ‘skills olympics’ and ensuring the Team’s achievements were broadcast live on the BBC.

But we need more champions, partners and advocates. We are a relatively small charity, but as an organisation we pay for ourselves several times over. A recent report from Frontier Economics shows that for every pound of public funding the return on investment is calculated between £2.40 and £4.50.

All our work is designed to help give the next generation a fighting chance to help the UK recover. By increasing quality of training and career prospects, we want to tackle head-on long standing vocational education snobbery issues – that apprenticeships and technical careers are for “other people’s children” – and increase the quantity of young women and men, from all walks of life, taking up technical careers as a route to success.

We are the convenors of a great collaboration between business, education and national governments delivering the skills elixir we all need to succeed – for young people, parents, teachers, employers and investors.

We and our partners are uniquely placed to deliver the national skills upgrade we need to help the economy thrive into the future. We believe that, with the right skills set and mindset, the next generation can help drive the country forward. We need you to help us scale up our impact and reap the resulting rewards. Join us on this quest.

Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE
Chief Executive, WorldSkills UK
Contact at nbentley-gockmann@worldskillsuk.org
LinkedIn: @DrNeilBentleyGockmann
Twitter: @DrNeilB
http://www.worldskillsuk.org

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Backing the next generation to secure our economic future

What to do in a time of confusion, fear and disruption: batten down the hatches and head below decks to ride out the storm – or ride the waves holding fast to ambitious plans for change?

With a global health crisis, mounting public debt and young people bearing the brunt of the new economic, social and educational reality, there was more than a semblance of cyclical serendipity, when we as a charity found ourselves grappling with that question last year. Because WorldSkills, a global coalition of over 85 countries propagating best practice in vocational training for young people, was forged in the second half of the 1940’s to help heal the economic wounds of a previous global crisis – war, pestilence and poverty.

So in the spirit of our WorldSkills founders, we made an irreversible decision to not just continue with reforming the way in which we work, but to put our foot on the accelerator and head for a new more expansive horizon.

What we have been doing successfully for over 60 years, as the UK member of WorldSkills, was finding the best of the best apprentices and college students from across the UK in more than 60 different disciplines. We would then form them into an elite team – and through an intensive period of advanced training – turn them in to world beaters. They fly the flag as Team UK representing this country in competition at Olympic-style global finals, against the best in the world, with a medal haul to prove the UK’s skills prowess.

Inspiring young people, developing their skillset and mindset and celebrating their achievements will always be the beating heart of our work. But as we looked ahead to future economic recovery needs, we knew we had to be more ambitious. So we set ourselves on a mission, building on our foundations and competitive success, to upgrade the quality of skills being developed to help businesses become more productive to create jobs for the next generation and boost the economy.

What we had to become was a skills innovation incubator. We set out to create a hub and spoke network sharing our unique knowledge and know-how gained through years of international benchmarking, turning our experience training to a world-class standard and harnessing our world-wide connections to impart global best practice to teachers and tens of thousands of young women and men.

Following diagnostic research by Oxford University, we created a vehicle to cascade world-class skills down to more than 40,000 young people in our Centre of Excellence and Innovation Network. Our elite team of world-class trainers was deployed to engage with hundreds of others in colleges across the country, training the trainers quickly and competently, enhanced with new digital resources, revealing the secrets of our international success so more young people, from all backgrounds, get a higher quality education. 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 of this programme – but it also chimes with the public mood. Our recent opinion polling confirms there is broad public support for high-quality technical education and apprenticeships.

As a globally facing organisation, which will be increasingly beneficial to a post Brexit UK, we have engaged with our peers in other leading industrial nations, including Japan, China, Korea, Russia and Taiwan, and are now signing formal international protocols to work together for mutual benefit. These include ongoing exchange of global best practice and training innovation such as virtual pressure tests, with young people in colleges and workplaces in the UK being tested and assessed online against their peers across the world. These are increasingly focussed on skills such as cyber security, electronics, computing, 3D game design, industry 4.0 and industrial robotics, while also continuing to support and drive up skills quality in other key sectors such as construction, engineering, hospitality and services.

Our next step is to begin work to help meet demand for a highly skilled workforce to support job creation in advanced manufacturing and clean tech to support developments in electric cars, offshore wind and digital across the UK, helping to secure inclusive economic growth. As a former deputy head of the CBI business group, I know that skills quality and supply are top of the list for many inward investment decisions – and Toyota, Jaguar Land Rover, Siemens and Amazon will all testify to the fact.

We knew we had a unique asset with unrivalled access to many of the key elements to unlocking the skills conundrum the country now faces and the Government in its recent white paper – Skills for Jobs – endorsed our approach and suggested others take a long hard look at the way we work.

The inimitable business and consumer journalist Steph McGovern – formerly of BBC and now at Channel 4 – has been our mainstream media champion as we take on the best of the rest nations at the finals of global competition. Steph has travelled to places as far afield as Sāo Paulo and Abu Dhabi cheering Team UK on to top 10 places in the finals of the ‘skills olympics’ and ensuring the Team’s achievements were broadcast live on the BBC.

But we need more champions, partners and advocates. We are a relatively small charity, but as an organisation we pay for ourselves several times over. A recent report from Frontier Economics shows that for every pound of public funding the return on investment is calculated between £2.40 and £4.50.

All our work is designed to help give the next generation a fighting chance to help the UK recover. By increasing quality of training and career prospects, we want to tackle head-on long standing vocational education snobbery issues – that apprenticeships and technical careers are for “other people’s children” – and increase the quantity of young women and men, from all walks of life, taking up technical careers as a route to success.

We are the convenors of a great collaboration between business, education and national governments delivering the skills elixir we all need to succeed – for young people, parents, teachers, employers and investors.

We and our partners are uniquely placed to deliver the national skills upgrade we need to help the economy thrive into the future. We believe that, with the right skills set and mindset, the next generation can help drive the country forward. We need you to help us scale up our impact and reap the resulting rewards. Join us on this quest.

Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE
Chief Executive, WorldSkills UK
Contact at nbentley-gockmann@worldskillsuk.org
LinkedIn: @DrNeilBentleyGockmann
Twitter: @DrNeilB
http://www.worldskillsuk.org

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