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Focus on inspiring learners and educators in Wales

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Mike James

Cardiff and Vale College principal

Eva Voma

WorldSkills UK Competitor

Paul Evans

Project Director, Inspiring Skills Excellence in Wales

Ensuring skills excellence across all nations and regions is core to the “levelling up” strategy. So, it is pertinent that this year’s WorldSkills UK national competitions are being held all around the UK for the first time.

One college playing host to some finals is Cardiff and Vale College. Principal Mike James’ college is one of 37 institutions across the UK that are part of the WorldSkills UK award-winning Centre for Excellence, an initiative that embeds world-class standards in skills development.

Inspiring staff and students to develop their skills 

Mike thinks the competitions will bring a real buzz to the college that will spill over to other students and teachers. “It showcases the national skill level to the college. Students watch their peers competing and the experience they’re having and think: ‘I could do that’. It’s inspiring and encourages them to keep pushing and developing,” he says. “The same goes for the staff. Competitions have really raised our game as educators, so we make sure the skills we’re delivering to the young people in our organisation are cutting edge.”

Cardiff and Vale College has 19 students taking part in this year’s finals and has had great success in recent years. “We’ve had some stunning students who’ve worked their socks off in the competitions over the last few years. We’re lucky to have staff that go way above and beyond their day-to-day jobs to support these individuals,” he says.

It was so good for my confidence because we were given industry-level tasks to perform, so I knew I was performing at high level.

Eva Voma

Supporting Welsh competitors 

He says there has been a real “Team Wales” approach, with great support from employers and government-funded initiatives such as Inspiring Skills Excellence in Wales. It works collaboratively with competitors, training providers and employers to offer a supportive infrastructure for Welsh competitors. Project Director Paul Evans says the competitions are a great way for young people to “test and showcase their skills and demonstrate their ability to be best in class” but they’re also a way for educators to benchmark themselves. 

“Without WorldSkills UK we’d have nothing to benchmark against – we’d just be big fish in a little pond. The competitions are our opportunity to spread our wings and see how well our tutors and competitors do at a national and international level,” he says.

He’s excited that some of the finals are taking place in colleges around Wales and is proud that 30% of competitors this year are from the nation. “It’s a fantastic achievement and a true testimony to the quality of educators we have in Wales,” he says. “We have some really strong pockets that are consistently producing competitors and winners and we strive to increase that year on year.”

Beneficial career experience 

Someone who has seen the benefits of competing is 19-year-old Eva Voma. A student at Coleg Menai, she won a silver medal in the Mechanical Engineering Computer Aided Design (CAD) category in 2019. 

“It was so good for my confidence because we were given industry-level tasks to perform, so I knew I was performing at high level. I’d say if you can accomplish a brief in WorldSkills UK, you’re well equipped for work in that sector. The experience reinforced that CAD is something I really enjoy doing and where I want to pursue a career. I’d recommend the competitions to anyone – it’s such a useful and (in hindsight) fun experience to have had,” she says.

While Wales has shown a huge improvement in both representation and standards at the competitions over the past few years, Paul says the crucial thing educators, employers and governments must focus on is future skills. “We need to think about the skills we’re going to need in 10 years’ time,” he says. “We need to learn and work in collaboration with the rest of the world to share knowledge. WorldSkills UK enables us to get that global link, so we ensure Wales is in a position to deliver these future skills and get ahead of the game,” he says.

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