WorldSkills UK chief steps down after seven years

Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann announces plans to step down in May to head up Whitehall & Industry Group

Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann announces plans to step down in May to head up Whitehall & Industry Group

30 Jan 2023, 13:00

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WorldSkills UK’s chief executive Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann is stepping down from his role after seven years at the helm.

The organisation – an independent charity which supports young people in global Olympics-style skills competition – said a smooth transition has been planned.

Bentley-Gockmann will step down as chief executive in May, but WorldSkills UK confirmed he will remain a member of the board through a transition period.

Taking the interim chief executive post before a permanent successor is appointed will be Ben Blackledge, currently deputy chief executive with eight years at WorldSkills on his CV.

Bentley-Gockmann is leaving to take up the chief executive position at the Whitehall & Industry Group – an independent charity which brings together business, government, not-for-profit organisations and academics to share learning.

He had been a board member of the organisation for two years until December.

“It’s been a real privilege to lead WorldSkills UK over the past seven years and to help grow its impact nationally and internationally,” Bentley-Gockmann said.

“While I am looking forward to my leadership next step, I am of course sad to move on from a fantastic organisation with a brilliant team doing such important, life-changing work.”

He added that the work of the team meant WorldSkills UK is “improving training standards through mainstreaming international best practice, championing future skills to align with rapidly changing economic needs and empowering more young people, from all backgrounds, to succeed in work and life”.

WorldSkills UK is one of 85 nations in the global WorldSkills network which works to use international best practice to improve standards, and showcase the talents of young learners in the UK in technical education and apprenticeships.

Under Bentley-Gockmann’s tenure, the UK crept back into the top 10 for the global medals tables in the 2022 competition, delayed from 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. At the prior competition in 2019, the UK finished 12th, with a 10th placing in 2017.

Among some of the other achievements for the organisation under his tenure have been establishing the centre for excellence in partnership with NCFE and the learning lab, producing a series of key reports on skills development and employer needs, and securing the UK’s position in the top 10 once again for the global WorldSkills competition medal table.

Marion Plant, chair of the board at WorldSkills UK, thanked Bentley-Gockmann for his “transformational” leadership over the last seven years, explaining that he has positioned the organisation as “a unique and innovative contributor to the UK skills systems” which had bettered the lives of “countless students, apprentices, further education staff and other partners”.

She added: “The respect in which WorldSkills UK is held nationally and internationally has grown significantly under his leadership, and we are well placed now to grow and to deepen our impact within the UK skills systems.”

Bentley-Gockmann took up his role at WorldSkills in November 2015. Prior to that he served various roles at the Confederation of British Industry over 11 years, including policy director, deputy director-general and chief operating officer.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Bentley-Gockmann studied French, German and European politics at Cardiff University in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, staying on to do a PHD on race equality in the workplace.

In 2013 the West Belfast-born businessman studied on the authentic leadership programme at Harvard Business School.

He has also held a number of board positions since the early 2000s, including at the aforementioned Whitehall and Industry Group for two years until December, as well as three years on the board at the University of Warwick and for three years at Stonewall until January 2015 where he was also deputy chair.

Board positions at BusinessEurope and The Carbon Trust are also on his CV.

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