Visiting the Birmingham NEC is always exciting but it was even more thrilling to be there on Friday 22 November in the midst of the Worldskills UK Live competition. Seven of the exhibition halls were teeming with young people at the top of their game competing with skill and professionalism in their chosen jobs and training programmes. There was another equally excited group of young school students visiting and viewing their possible jobs of the future. The competition is divided into sectors and, whilst I, as Master of the Plaisterers’ Livery, was more interested in Construction and Infrastructure, the other sectors provided equally interesting skills. They were Engineering and Technology, Digital Business and Creative, Health, Hospitality and Lifestyle and Education. All of these areas offered competitions to test the competitors but also demonstrated an array of job opportunities and “have a go” try out areas. Competitors from all over the UK were there from a very wide variety of colleges and locations. This year there was an emphasis on ensuring that health and wellbeing were at the heart of the training giving the young people support and mental strength and emphasising that such care and concern for mental health should by followed up at college and in the work place. I was delighted to see the plastering and dry lining competitions with sponsorship by British Gypsum. The students had to build a room complete with an internal pillar for the drywall systems task and the plasterers were busy plastering a wall of their structure and then running a moulded architrave around a door. It was hard full on work under time and pressure of the public gaze. It was exhausting just watching them and exciting to see the skill and dedication of these young people and their college and work trainers. These skills are vital to the economy of the UK and these competitions help drive standards and employer commitment as well as showcasing skills and jobs to engage the next cohort of young people.
The WorldSkills competitions certainly need more publicity in the UK. Before I went to Kazan, the members of my Livery Company (the Plaisterers) knew about it as we have been supporting WorldSkills for some time. Some of the 110 other Livery Companies know about it as they support their respective skills in the competition or at Colleges. However outside of that there is no real visibility. Why does it need to be known? So that we can celebrate the talent of the young people and appreciate the training and professionalism in the system that produces 37 excellent young people from the UK on the world stage but also to recognise and trumpet the educational system that provides regular daily training and skills to every new generation of young people ready to learn. We need to be proud of the work of the colleges and trainers and the businesses who invest in these young people. Whilst that system is not perfect we need to learn from the competitions and the liaison with other nations so that we can improve the training and lift the skills and ensure that our training can create the future workforce that we will need. It is that training culture that is so important and not just the wining of medals that should be the key to the UK's engagement with an integrated training and accreditation system.
That is a message that I would like to broadcast loud and clear. That we need to value the skills of these young people and to assist them in being able to learn and start their careers. The competitions are an important showcase but the day to day work and commitment is the story I will bring back to the Livery Companies, to the businesses and to Government.