Indies challenged to compete

The independent learning provider (ILP) sector has been laid down the challenge of getting more involved in skills competitions.

Stewart Segal, Association of Employment and Learning Providers’ chief executive, said he wanted more of his members involved in events such as WorldSkills following the TeamUK’s success at EuroSkills, collecting three gold and six silver medals

Currently, around 80 per cent of competitors in national UK skills competitions are drawn from colleges, with the remainder split between ILPs, employers and universities.

Mr Segal told FE Week there was a move towards increasing ILP learner numbers competing in the Skills Show and WorldSkills, but that there were a number of barriers currently in place.

“I would definitely encourage private providers to get involved in WorldSkills,”
he said.

“The key thing about successful competitions and successful Skills Shows is that they bring that important careers advice and guidance for young people — they’re not something that’s just an add-on.”

He added: “Part of the problem with getting involved with the Skills Show or Skills Show experience event is about flexile location.

“Colleges tend to be located geographically — they can say ‘this is what we offer in this area, these are the employers’, they can get involved with local events and with regional skills competitions, whereas the big providers tend to operate nationally, so this can act as a barrier.

“In terms of competitions as well, many more of the learners at private providers tend to be apprentices and are employed, and may struggle to get time off work to train and attend competitions, so there is a point around encouraging employers to see the importance of it.”

However, Mr Segal, who was recently appointed to the board of Find a Future, which organises the Skills Show and Team UK’s entry in international skills competitions, said he hoped his involvement could make a difference.

“I think more and more providers are seeing the benefits of being involved,” he said.

Find a Future chief executive Ross Maloney agreed, saying Mr Segal’s inclusion on the board was to “reflect the make-up of the sector in the widest sense”.

He said: “Stewart and I are very clear we’ve got to do more engagement around private providers.

“We need to make sure providers understand the benefit of competition involvement,
and we’ve cracked that to a degree with colleges but we’ve got to do more work in
the private sector.”