Apprentices across Wales are being encouraged to put their skills to the test against the best by entering the WorldSkills UK 2023 competitions.
The call comes from the National Training Federation of Wales (NTFW) and Inspiring Skills Excellence in Wales (ISEiW), who are calling on work-based learning providers and employers to support apprentices to showcase their talent.
Apprentices wishing to enter this year’s WorldSkills UK competitions can register online at here until March 24.
The competitions stretch and challenge learners, giving them different experiences within their vocational field by training with industry professionals.
Employers find the experience inspirational for their business and their workforce, whilst apprentices achieve well deserved recognition for their skills and knowledge.
Lisa Mytton, strategic director of the NTFW, a network of work-based learning providers, said:
“Having recently witnessed learners taking part in a skills competition, I encourage all work-based learning providers and their apprentices to engage with this year’s WorldSkills UK and find out more about how to enter.
“The opportunities for apprentices are fantastic and many of those who have participated have gone on to become skills ambassadors and progress their career. Their employers benefit from having highly motivated employees who possess outstanding skills and are focused on self-development.”
Paul Evans is project director ISEiW, a Welsh Government funded project which gives Welsh learners an opportunity to benchmark their skills against the rest of the UK and internationally through competitions.
ISEiW, which organises Skills Competition Wales and supports Welsh learners in WorldSkills UK, has helped Wales to become the top UK region for skills for the last seven years.
Thirty-eight of the 94 learners selected for Squad UK to compete for a place in Team UK at WorldSkills Lyon in 2024 come from Wales.
“The backbone of a strong economy is built on skills,” said Paul. “If you get the foundation right, the economy will prosper.
“I am encouraging all work-based learning providers and employers across Wales to support their apprentices to enter WorldSkills UK competitions because when they do, they achieve phenomenal results.
“We work with the best young people, tutors, work-based learning practitioners and employers across Wales but there is always room for more.
“Entering the competitions doesn’t just stretch and challenge the learner, it also exposes work-based learning providers and employers to national and international standards.
“The impact of the competitions on individuals is truly life changing. Competitions focus on a learners’ performance under pressure, time and quality, all attributes wanted by employers. As a result, we are seeing more support coming directly from employers.”
Several Welsh learners excelled in last year’s WorldSkills UK and Skills Competition Wales. They included Kavan Cox, 19, who won silver in the WorldSkills Foundation Skills for IT Software Solutions for Business category whilst a Jobs Growth Wales+ learner with ACT Training.
Kavan, who lives in Hirwaun, also won a gold medal for Customer Service Level 1 in the Skills Competition Wales while fellow ACT Training learner Kian Davies won a bronze medal.in the same competition.
“Just by taking part in the competitions made me feel more confident and allowed me to use the skills I had gained,” said Kavan, who would like to convert a work experience placement with the Job Centre in Aberdare into an apprenticeship. “It was awesome to win the medals and I would advise other apprentices to use their skills and enter the competitions.”
Other Skills Competition Wales successes came in the Accountancy category where apprentices Sara Mariica McQueen from ACT Training and Ricky O’Callaghan and Stephanie Watkins, both from ALS Training, all won gold medals and Eric Brown won a bronze medal in the Support Technician category.
Michael Evans, financial accountant at the Office for National Statistics, Newport, where Stephanie has recently been promoted, said:
“The primary advantage of being an apprentice is the opportunity to gain hands-on experience while simultaneously expanding skillsets.
“Participating in these competitions allows individuals to compare their skills and capabilities with those in similar situations, benefiting not only the competitors, but also the organisation by serving as a performance indicator for our learning and development offerings and career progression opportunities.
“Winning a gold medal at Skills Competition Wales has greatly boosted Stephanie’s confidence and opened up further opportunities for professional growth. She was recently promoted internally and continues to progress in her finance career.
“I would recommend apprenticeships as a fantastic way to upskill and support business needs.”
Of previous WorldSkills UK entrants, 97% said they improved their technical skills after taking part and 93% said they improved their personal and employability skills. The average earnings of those who participated in competition development programmes is 60 per cent higher than those of a comparable peer group.