Welcome to this special FE Week supplement brought to you on location from EuroSkills 2014 Lille — where TeamUK picked up an amazing three golds, six silvers and three medallions for excellence (but more about that later).
Travelling to Lille with the talented 21 young men and women representing their country in 16 different skills, the message I heard over and over again from former competitors, training managers and even current competitors was that skills competitions change lives.
Competitors find skills and confidence they never knew they had and see their job prospects flourish, but they in turn change lives by inspiring other people.
Skills Minister Nick Boles acknowledged this in his message of support for TeamUK ahead of the competition, saying: “I am completely in awe of anybody who actually has a practical skill which they are excellent at, since I have precisely none.
“They are ambassadors for their country and I hope they make us and their families very proud.”
The competitors were all chosen from the WorldSkills UK squad — a group of more than 100 young people who are training for WorldSkills in Sao Paulo, Brazil, next year.
The squad will be whittled down to a team early next year.
The UK treats EuroSkills as a training opportunity, to see how competitors will cope on the international stage, so getting into the EuroSkills team doesn’t mean competitors will necessarily go onto WorldSkills.
Nevertheless, EuroSkills team members will be hoping that a good performance in Lille could push them one step nearer Brazil.
Skills competitions can also help drive up standards at home as Keith Smith, interim chief executive of the Skills Funding Agency and Jenny Shackleton, WorldSkills assessment adviser told me, which you can read more about on page three.
On pages four and five read about what I got up to during the competitions and on pages six, seven, 10 and 11 you can find out more about the competitions and the competitors themselves.
On pages 12 and 13 you can read coverage of the closing ceremony (and more on who from TeamUK won what) and on pages 14 and 15 we have the results and interviews with some of the top performers.
Our coverage of WorldSkills will continue online in the run up the Skills Show in November and WorldSkills next year so to keep up with the action, visit the FE Week website or follow @FEWeek.