WorldSkills UK has appointed Ben Blackledge as chief executive, starting immediately, after spending the last few months as interim chief executive whilst a permanent successor was found.
The charity, which supports young people in national and global Olympics-style skills competitions, launched an executive search when Neil Bentley-Gockmann announced earlier this year that he would be stepping down after seven years at the helm.
Blackledge was promoted from deputy chief executive to interim chief executive at the time as part of a planned smooth transition for the senior leadership team.
The board of trustees gave Blackledge the permanent position following an open and competitive recruitment process, managed by executive recruitment agency Starfish Search.
Blackledge joined WorldSkills UK in 2014 after holding a number of policy positions in government. He became deputy CEO in 2019 and was elected to the board of WorldSkills Europe in 2021.
Blackledge also sits on the WorldSkills International Competition Working Group, and the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education’s (IfATE’s) assessment panel.
WorldSkills UK is one of 85 nations in the global WorldSkills network which aims to showcase international best practice to improve standards and show off the talents of UK learners in technical education and apprenticeships.
The UK national finals will take place this November, where winners will be crowned the UK’s best in their chosen skill. Finalists are due to be announced later this month.
Blackledge said he is “delighted” to take on the role to lead the organisation into an “exciting future”.
“I believe deeply in the work we do and the impact and potential of the sector we support, so it is an absolute pleasure to be able to lead the organisation into what is an exciting future,” he said.
“We will continue to focus on driving the development of high-quality technical and professional skills to an international standard to help meet the needs of business, to attract investment, and to create more life changing opportunities for young people.”
Chair of the WorldSkills UK Board, Marion Plant said: “Ben has demonstrated his excellent leadership skills, vision and drive for WorldSkills UK and has impressed the Board with the impact he has made over the last few months. We look forward to working with him and supporting him as he leads the organisation, ensuring it continues to deliver for education, business and young people.”