EuroSkills 2018: FE grandees fly out to support Team UK

Two grandees of the FE sector landed in Budapest today to witness “the best of the best” and cheer on Team UK at EuroSkills 2018.

Sir Gerry Berragan, chief executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships, and Sue Husband, the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s director of employer engagement, touched down in Hungary this morning to attend their first ever international skills competition.

They toured around the Hungexpo arena where 22 competitors from the UK are competing against representatives from 28 countries in trades ranging from mechatronics to hairdressing.

“I was really energised by the competition and captured by the range of skills on display, how good they all were and how competitive it all was,” he told FE Week.

“These young people are the best of the best in what they do and I hope they take their skills and knowledge back to the UK to share it.”

He added that WorldSkills plays a “really vital part in highlighting and getting that message out to employers and potential apprentices”.

“These competitions raise awareness,” Sir Gerry said. “In the UK we’re a really high-skilled economy and have some very skilled people in our different sectors and routes and why wouldn’t we want to showcase that here?

“Why wouldn’t we want to come and represent ourselves on the European and ultimately the world stage? We finished top 10 last year in the world so we would be crazy not to be here.”

He said it’ll be “interesting” to see how other countries approach skills.

“We can’t be complacent, we’re all facing similar challenges so how much emphasis they give it will be interesting to see.”

Ms Husband, who is a learner herself currently studying a chartered management degree apprenticeship, said she has “loved the experience” being out at EuroSkills.

“I knew this was going to be on a slightly different level so I’ve always been keen to witness it,” she told FE Week.

“One of the things you can see when walking around these competitions is how much the competitors have honed their skills and are focused on the task and that is hats off to WorldSkills UK because it shows their training has gone well.”

WorldSkills UK has struggled with government investment in recent years while the likes of Russia and China have invested heavily.

Ms Husband said the Department for Education and ESFA are fully behind supporting skills competitions, but it also needs help from employers.

“The government has been investing in these competitions for a number of years and I think we all now know more than ever that skills are vital to the economy.

“We have different cultures [to Russia and China] and different ways of investing in individuals. The UK model is very much about the government making the investment but I also think there is an ask on employers to share that investment.”

She continued: “I think that model works better with our culture and also there is a fine line between how much you might push the end goal of a medal versus the appropriate way to develop the individual to get world class skills.

“The key thing for me is making sure there is wider impact, not just on the 22 competitors here but across all of our colleges and training providers and employers.

“We want this lot to be the cream of the crop when actually there is a really big effect across the wider working population.”

FE Week is proud to be the official media partners for Team UK and WorldSkills UK.