Potential investors got a sneak peak of what’s going to be on offer at this year’s Skills Show at an awareness raising event today in Central London.

Ross Maloney (pictured), chief executive of Skills Show organisers Find a Future opened the event at Oxo Wharf, looking back at the success of the show, which was held for the third year in a row in November.

“The Skills Show is the UK’s largest skills information event and provides an impressive and incredible platform, and a base from which to support young people, helping them make important choices about their career,” he said.

Mr Maloney pointed to the results of a survey commissioned by Find a Future, asking some of the show’s 75,000 visitors what they thought of the show.

Mr Maloney said: “94 per cent of young people are satisfied with their experience the Skills Show and 86 per cent of adults feel the same.

“Importantly 97 of young people said they were going to take some positive action as a direct result of their experiences at the Skills Show — whether that was about seeking work experience further advice from parents and teachers or undertaking research.”

Ben Blackledge, head of content and experience at Find a Future, told FE Week what the organisation planned to add to this year’s show to make sure young people did actually take that direct action.

“We know people are inspired at the show — when they’re there in the moment they’re really engaged and inspired but the minute they go out it just leaves their heads,  so how can we create a place where they can do it all in one go?” he said.

This year’s show would include a new ‘job shop’ in every sector area.

“So every sector, you go, you’re inspired, and then you can get some careers advice, listen to the spotlight talks and just naturally moving on to taking the next steps,” said Mr Blackledge.

He also shared some more of the improvements the Skills Show team are making “to make sure those three days are as impactful as possible” — such as expanding the resources available to teachers.

“In the last few years the statutory duty to provide careers advice has gone onto schools and so to teachers,” he said.

“So we want to make sure that those people who have got that added as part of their job, are equipped with the right information.”

Find a Future was working with the Careers Development Institute to create resources and a programme of activity to support teachers giving careers advice.

“To create a space within such an inspirational show, where teachers can be upskilled, and equipped to deliver that we think is really important,” said Mr Blackledge.

The team was also looking at how to incorporate the competitions — which will be expanded this year to include squad selection for WorldSkills 2017 in Abu Dhabi as well as the national skills competition finals — into the visitor experience.

“It’s about saying to teachers ‘actually, in the same way you play football on a Saturday morning, and then you got to Wembley and watch England play, that’s like doing competitions in your classroom and then going to see the excellence and delivery of that as part of the show,” said Mr Blackledge.

“There’s also the big issue of how to we treat the offer, of 6,400 square meters of exhibition space, so that it’s accessible?

“We trialled the skills passport last year, where visitors collect stamps from each area to encourage them to explore, and that seemed to work in getting young people out and making connections, so we’ll be expanding that.”

The show will also be moving to from its usual spot in the Birmingham NEC to a larger, different section of the same complex, which Mr Blackledge said would allow the different sections to be better linked together.

“Before we had three big vast spaces but this year it’s going to a corridor, so when you walk in, its narrower but longer,” he said.

“Although it’ll still be 100 metres wide, but it’ll be easier to signpost things to make sure visitors see everything, because there’ll be stuff on your right and your left rather than having things in between you and where you want to be.”

The Skills Show would also be expanding the role volunteers could play in the show, he said, involving college students in activities relevant to their courses to give them work experience — for example retail students offering visitors customer service and performing arts students compering spotlight and showcase events.

“This year we want to make something more meaty for the volunteers — so 500 instead of 800 —doing a bigger role, trying to make sure there’s more benefit for them,” he said.

Chris Darling, head of apprenticeships at Virgin Media, issued at heartfelt plea, from his own experience for employers at the event to get involved.

“When we got involved, I expected would be a great corporate social responsibility policy — tick a box, give them ‘x’ amount of money each year, go and have a look and that’s it,” he said.

“But actually what happened is year on year… we’ve started taking our apprentices to run our stall and actually when you as the employer stand back, there’s something that happens in them.

“The passion you see in young apprentices when they’re talking to other young people about what they do is amazing and the confidence in them — we have a fantastic model here for exposure and confidence building in our apprentices.”

This year’s Skills Show will run from November 19 to 21 at the Birmingham NEC.

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