Lockdown hasn’t dampened the determination of would-be Team UK members for EuroSkills Graz, says Neil Bentley-Gockmann.

Today we announced the young apprentices, students and professionals who will represent the UK at EuroSkills Graz 2020 in January, which will be the first big skills test of the post-Brexit era.

The team selection for the event in Austria comes against a backdrop of change and opportunity. While team members have been training hard (virtually) during Covid-19, the public health and related economic challenges have refocused minds on the need to transform the quality of technical education. Now is the time, more than ever, to drive up standards across the UK – particularly in England, given there is a white paper in the pipeline.

So Team UK will be the standard-bearers of high quality from the UK skills systems, put to the test against our European competitors. At the previous EuroSkills finals, held in Budapest in 2018, we finished ninth out of 28 countries. Our aim is to finish in the top ten again.

Preparation for this competition has been like no other, with Covid abruptly stopping our usual way of training. But the commitment and resilience of our training and coaching team – and the competitors themselves – reimagined our training programmes, moving them online. Their determination to further develop their skills in lockdown is why we are doing everything we can to compete safely at EuroSkills.

All being well, Team UK will demonstrate on the European stage that the next generation is developing the skills we need to build back a better economy and remain internationally competitive.

But more than that, the training and assessment methods designed to support Team UK will also be used systematically for the first time, as we get ready to welcome colleges into the new WorldSkills UK Centre of Excellence. The hope is that the centre will allow thousands of FE students and apprentices to benefit from good practice. In partnership with the Northern Council for Further Education (NCFE), the centre will draw on our unique insights into training to international standards and transfer this know-how into everyday teaching, training and assessment. A quarter of all FE colleges across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland applied to be part of the centre’s first year, clearly demonstrating real appetite in the sector to drive excellence in technical education.

Meanwhile the Team UK members this year, next year and well into the future will continue to exemplify the benefits of higher quality technical education in terms of enhanced prospects, stellar career paths and setting up their own businesses. We have already seen such determination and commitment to succeed in all team members, including Abigail Stansfield, who is an engineering apprentice at BAE Systems, representing the UK in CNC Milling and who was determined to get involved in our work after visiting WorldSkills UK LIVE at the start of her apprenticeship.

All Team UK will be focused on delivering a medal-winning performance at EuroSkills, supported by their employers, colleges and training providers, who understand that highly skilled, motivated young people will be crucial to the economic recovery of the UK.

So, as we look towards EuroSkills Graz 2020, WorldSkills Shanghai 2021, EuroSkills St Petersburg 2022 and WorldSkills Lyon 2023, we at WorldSkills UK will be driving to boost innovation and excellence in FE to inspire and develop ever more young people, from all walks of life, to take up technical career routes and apprenticeships.

We will be benchmarking our performance to learn from the best of the rest of the world and will be turning this into practical insights that can be adopted across the UK skills systems to influence change and set higher standards for all. That’s the very essence of Team UK and the future of our work at WorldSkills UK – and if you want to be part of it, do get in touch.