Organisers plan to set up annual UK skills competiton after success at London competition

With the success of staging the biggest international skills competition still fresh in their minds, organisers of WorldSkills London 2011 are putting plans in place for an annual showcase to help breed Team UK stars of the future.

As the dust settled and the winners made their way home from a stunning closing ceremony on Sunday night, which saw the home team secure their record medal haul, ideas were already being put down for WorldSkills UK.

To be held in the autumn every year, the event would be around 50 per cent smaller than last week’s international competition.

Although dates and locations are yet to be finalised, the event would travel to a different area each year to ensure it is as accessible for all as possible.

Behind the plans are the Skills Funding Agency (SFA), Department for Education, National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) and, of course, WorldSkills UK. Jaine Bolton, national director  of business development for NAS and official delegate for WorldSkills UK, said: “We think it will be particularly important to give people a single focus.

“We think it will be that combination which really creates a real buzz.”

She added: “The ExCel was perfect for an international event. We haven’t decided on a venue, but we don’t want it to always be in London. We also haven’t decided on a scale but roughly 50 per cent of WorldSkills London.”

Geoff Russell, chief executive of the SFA, said the success of Team UK would be the “beginning of a new, inspired future for skills excellence” in the UK.

He added: “The legacy of WorldSkills London 2011 will be an annual cycle of skills competitions driving up the standards and status of vocational skills across the country.

“The cycle will culminate in a high profile event bringing together all of the national finals to showcase all that is best in Further Education, the tremendous achievements of learners and the impact of skills and learning on individuals, businesses and the economy.”

However, a spokesperson for the SFA told FE Week: “The Skills Funding Agency held an event on October 7 to introduce the idea to FE colleges of holding an annual skills competition.

“It was agreed with the FE colleges that more information on this would follow in the coming months and the plan for an annual skills competition would be shared more widely but no public announcement was planned at this stage.”

Mrs Bolton also said: “We are exceptionally proud of Team UK, but not just the competitors, the experts, the trainers and the people behind the scenes too. I was really struck by all of the work being done to make everything happen and for it to happen smoothly.”

Throughout the event, a number of high-profile celebrities and public figures made an appearance, including Prime Minister David Cameron. After touring the event on Day Two, Mr Cameron ‘had a go’ at mobile robotics and spoke to school and college children from across the UK. He said: “Standing here is so inspiring. To see almost 1,000 young people from more than 50 countries competing to be the best of the best.

“Not just in one skill, but in more than 40 skills from robotics, to web design, from cookery to landscape gardening. It’s great too for me that the UK is able to show off the skills and diversity of our own young people. What they have all achieved here sets a fantastic example for other young people.”

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, was taken for a whistlestop tour on Day Three and he showed he was not afraid to get his hands dirty by replacing the tyre of a Honda Fireblade motorcycle, ceremoniously holding aloft the sprocket carrier as he did so.

He said: “It’s a great venue and it’s very inspiring. I was very slow (at changing the tyre). I can barely repair a bike puncture.”

He also praised the hands-on activities on offer, adding: “The motivation is there for these kids (because) they can come along and join up to the different skills. You can change your way – it’s about self discovery,” he said.

The closing ceremony – held at the nearby O2 Arena – was attended by Skills Minister John Hayes, who said: “These inspirational results are a tribute to the skill, imagination and purposeful pride of our young people.

“Team UK has shown that UK workers and businesses can take on the world and win – but I want many thousands more people in the UK to achieve excellence.”

To watch the FE Week interview with Olympic gold medalist click here or to see what Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards thought of WorldSkills London 2011 click here.

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