For the UK to attract the investment that will level up communities, we need world-class skills, writes Neil Bentley-Gockmann.
Introducing the long-awaited Levelling Up White Paper, Michael Gove listed some of the United Kingdom’s successes. He talked up the size and strength of the economy, the dominance of the English language around the world and our universities’ place as global research and development superpowers.
All things that have seen us succeed at home and abroad. However, he was right to make clear that we need a change of approach if the government’s ambitious plans to level up are to succeed.
And we believe that a crucial change is the need to develop a world-class skills economy to complement our already world-leading knowledge economy.
This means the UK being recognised as a global leader in developing world-class apprenticeships and skills to help create high-quality jobs for young people in key future sectors.
And our mission at WorldSkills UK is to help deliver on that by mainstreaming international best practice with colleges and training providers. We want to help more young people reach the high-quality standards employers and investors need to create high-skill high-paid jobs across the UK.
That’s why we are ever more focused on developing world-class skills to support local economic development in three ways.
Firstly, helping boost the quantity of skills. We are working to inspire more young people, from all backgrounds, to reach their potential through apprenticeships and technical careers with the chance to become world-class through national and international competition-based training programmes.
Last year the national finals of our competitions programme took place in over 20 venues around the UK, allowing us to showcase the talent and hard work of hundreds of inspiring young people. We then saw thousands tune in from home or their colleges to watch the winners announced in a special live show presented by Steph McGovern from her Packed Lunch studio.
Registration for our 2022 competitions programme opens at the end of February. The winners could end up representing the UK on the international stage at EuroSkills in St Petersburg in 2023 and the WorldSkills ‘skills olympics’ in Lyon in 2024. Those that do will follow in the footsteps of the young people currently preparing for WorldSkills Shanghai in October, showcasing to the UK and rest of the world what it means to be world-class.
Secondly, increasing the quality of skills. From our international training programme we have created a Centre of Excellence which allows our international training experts to share their world-class teaching with educators and uses our partner NCFE’s expertise to fire excellence in skills development.
Now in its second year, the centre is already working in depth with around 40 colleges and training providers. Thisnumber will increase again next year, reaching tens of thousands of young people across the UK, while we are also constantly improving our hub of world-class online resources.
Thirdly, helping to promote our high-quality skills. Our Skills Taskforce for Global Britain is currently exploring how we make sure more parts of the UK can use high-quality future skills to attract and retain valuable inward investment. The taskforce will deliver a report in the spring with recommendations on how to bring skills and inward investment delivery closer together to get the high-skilled, high-wage jobs local economies need.
Put bluntly, if you want to attract investment you need high-quality skills, and if you want high-quality skills you need inward investment. With global competition for inward investment getting fiercer every year, the UK must add world-class skills to its international calling card.
The global locations successfully bringing in foreign investment not only have a sophisticated skills offer to attract investors, but also target firms for the high-quality skills they can bring and for the positive productivity and spillover effects they have on the local skills base.
If the government’s levelling up agenda is to be realised – and we are to grow, be internationally competitive and create high quality jobs – we must develop, deliver and promote world-class skills.