Hosting skills competitions sends out a strong message that the UK is amongst the best, says Lesley Davies

Many say a week isn’t long enough to celebrate the success of our apprentices and I’m inclined to agree with them. I, for one wish the success of last week’s National Apprenticeship Week could be repeated throughout the year. 

As a sector, we should all be proud of what we have achieved over the last ten years in establishing National Apprenticeship Week as a fundamental event in the academic calendar. At Trafford College, we played our own part by celebrating the success of the apprentices we work with and also providing information, advice and guidance to school leavers and their parents, enabling them to hear the benefits first hand from existing apprentices and employers.

However, since the first National Apprenticeship Week in 2007 the political and economic backdrop against which we are working has changed significantly. We are increasingly facing global employment challenges, and as a result we need a renewed focus on the training we deliver through our apprenticeship programmes. There has been much discussion about the apprenticeship reforms, but alongside increasing the flexibility and effectiveness of the training delivered, we need to work with employers to focus on world-class standards.

Many of the businesses we work with in Greater Manchester are international organisations, which is why we need to show that global standards are embedded in our training. We can achieve this through the knowledge and experience gained from the UK’s involvement in the international WordSkills Competition.

We have long been using competition activity to enhance training programmes

Working with other local colleges and training providers, we have long been using competition activity to enhance the training programmes we run. For me, they are a proven mechanism in motivating and stretching apprentices and students, showing them just what they can achieve in the workplace. However, the opportunity to be able to benchmark standards in the UK with over 70 countries through the WorldSkills Competition is invaluable.

The UK’s success at the last two international competitions, which saw us placed in the top ten in the WorldSkills and WorldSkills Europe rankings, shows we have a strong base from which we can grow our expertise in training to world-class standards. But to do this, we must all play our part: Government, industry and our sector.

I am proud that Trafford College, alongside The Manchester College, Stockport College, Coleg Cambria and Training 2000 will be hosting Team UK Selection for WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017. Not only will the UK’s top apprentices and students be using our facilities to demonstrate they should be chosen to represent the UK on the world stage, but we will also host apprentices from countries including India, Denmark, Canada and Russia as they use the opportunity to test their skills against the UK.

In addition, hosting the competitions helps us to internationalise our existing students, opening their eyes to the world that they live and compete in, and providing them with the opportunity to see the very best students at work. This sends out a strong message to the employers we work with but also to employers where those international competitors are from, that the UK is amongst the best, rising to the challenges that a fast-changing global economy presents.

Registration for WorldSkills, for which FE Week is a media partner, is open until 7 April

Lesley Davies is Principal of Trafford College