Dr Neil Bentley, Chief Executive, WorldSkills UKSkills, explains how competitions prepare apprentices and learners for the challenges of work
The skills shortages facing construction firms in the UK has been well documented in recent times, with the issue being cited as one of the main barriers to the industry’s ability to successfully deliver cost effectively on future projects.
Indeed, the CITB has estimated that the sector will need to fill almost a quarter of a million jobs by 2019.
However, the issue is not simply a shortage of available workers.
Employers are desperate for highly skilled individuals and this has been evident in the wider discussions around the apprenticeship levy.
As expected, there has been much debate around the financial implications, but when I have spoken to construction firms they have been just as keen to discuss the wider elements of the levy, most notably quality and the development of standards.
It is this renewed focus on quality that highlights how valuable skills competitions are in helping to meet the needs of employers.
We work in partnership with CITB to deliver the regional and national SkillBuild Competitions, part of the WorldSkills UK portfolio.
As the national qualifiers draw to a close, we look forward to welcoming the finalists to compete at this year’s The Skills Show, which takes place at the NEC Birmingham from 17 to 19 November.
I am confident that this year’s competitors will find the competitions as important to their apprenticeship training as past competitors have.
In a recent survey, over 95 per cent of competitors believed that taking part in our skill competitions improved their technical and employability skills, while over 80 per cent felt competing had increased their confidence, team working, time management and ability to work under pressure.
It is the preparation for and the experience of competing that enables apprentices to gain the high level employability skills that will drive the construction industry forward.
For the UK’s top apprentices, their involvement in our competitions doesn’t stop at the National Finals. Indeed, those individuals who excelled in last year’s competitions are now in training with WorldSkills UK for the international skills competitions, EuroSkills Gothenburg 2016 and WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017.
Our squad of apprentices are undertaking a comprehensive training programme that will prepare them to compete in front of 200,000 people on the world stage.
The apprentices are supported by their employer, training provider and a dedicated team of experts, who are responsible for devising the technical training programme.
However our apprentices also need the mind-set of a Gold medallist when they compete internationally. To support them in this, they follow a similar programme to that of our top athletes.
Working with specialist coaches, they focus on developing key attributes including problem solving, working under pressure, team work and leadership, all of which are essential to delivering a medal winning performance.
Competing internationally not only enables us to showcase the young talent in the UK construction and other leading industries, including engineering and digital, but it also enables us to benchmark the employability skills of our apprentices with those from the rest of Europe and across the world.
It is this insight which will ensure more young people are being equipped with the right skills to help UK businesses better compete globally.
For more information visit www.worldskillsuk.org