Transforming Attitudes to Apprenticeships

Competitions and Awards are Critical to Transforming Attitudes to Apprenticeships – thought leadership

With the UK team recently returned from Budapest for EuroSkills 2018, employers and apprentices have enthusiastically embraced competitions to a degree unanticipated a decade ago. Why has this been the case?

There is little doubt that hosting WorldSkills in London in 2011 was a major catalyst for the growth of interest in skills competitions. This event was so well supported and the team was successful in producing role models and ambassadors who have served the UK brilliantly since then.

Anyone closely involved with skills competitions is quickly hooked by the passion that competitors and their coaches bring to the process. Striving for excellence becomes addictive.

Individuals appreciate the camaraderie that comes from being a part of the team, forging friendships that last a very long time, often with people against whom they are competing for a final team place.

They see how much better their skills can become and gain a massive sense of pride in their skills and achievements as they develop. For some, there is the accolade of being crowned the best in Europe or in the world. This means a lot because the standards are so obviously high and international competition is so fierce. You only have to visit a competition to see that.

While there is an understandable focus on the individuals participating, their trainers and supervisors also benefit hugely from the process. They get to see what world-class skills truly mean when looked at globally. They get to see how high the bar really is for medals and to be fully competitive as a business.

Developing and adopting a training programme to lift standards to international levels is inspiring as well as challenging for employers, supervisors and trainers. The individual will receive the medal but the team all contribute massively and the learning benefits them all.

Some of the competition skills are more spectator-friendly than others but viewing them instils a great sense of pride in the competitors’ talents and abilities as well as in work-based skills generally. These are flagship events that are helping transform the attitudes of people towards high quality Apprenticeships and work-based training. You cannot fail to be impressed by the skills and by the young people.

Employers benefit from the sharpening and raising of skills by those entering competitions as well as by using the PR that flows from having the best young skilled person in Europe or the world working for them.

Many get the competitions “bug” having seen the real benefits of being involved. These benefits include the personal growth of the individual competitors who complete the programmes who often emerge much more confident and communicative than when they began. They are able to perform well under pressure and to work within teams. Their horizons have been broadened and they embrace the idea of international competitiveness and collaboration. They are great role models for others.

So too are those who win awards for their Apprenticeship achievements. The National Apprenticeship Awards in London on 28 November will undoubtedly produce more ambassadors. When I was the CEO of the National Apprenticeship Service, this was always a night that I enjoyed because it reminded you that this role was about supporting individuals and you could leave targets at the door.

I recall that selection processes were always tricky because candidates often fell into two distinct groups. The first were those who were simply outstanding with consistently high skill levels. Their work achievements were especially impressive. The second were people who had had challenging journeys but had overcome all that had been placed in their way and shone brightly at the end. Their life achievements were especially impressive. How do you choose between these groups when both are so worthy of awards?

This is why successive presenters explain that everyone who gets to awards events is a winner. It may sound like a platitude but in the case of awards events it is so true. The stories behind those attending as finalists are invariably as humbling as they are impressive.

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I will be attending the Awards dinner with PeoplePlus in November. I look forward to seeing many other individuals for whom Apprenticeships have been life changing and employers for whom growing their own skills through Apprenticeships has been key to success and competitiveness. They are the next team of role models and ambassadors. I can’t wait.

David Way CBE
Apprenticeship Ambassador for PeoplePlus and Editor and contributor to ‘A Race to the Top – How to achieve three million more Apprenticeships by 2020.’



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