04 October 2011

Wales’ Colleges Measured against Rest of the World 

The skills economy is a global marketplace and learners in Wales – and Welsh industry more broadly - need to be able to compete with the best. Colleges in Wales are responding to global competition by looking outwards and challenging themselves against the best in the world. This week (5-8 October), the focus is on WorldSkills, the world’s largest skills competition which is staged in London this year.

Within Wales, further education colleges are committed to achieving high quality through seeking to meet the ever-higher challenging quality benchmarks set by the Welsh Government and judged by Estyn, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate in Wales.  Now, colleges are looking beyond national boundaries and are seeking to measure quality and success in vocational skills in international terms.

Wales’ colleges are broadening their horizons and those of their learners. The newly launched CollegesWales International, the international arm of ColegauCymru / CollegesWales, is creating opportunities for apprentices from Wales to have work placements in Europe and is developing strong links with China. Through such international opportunities it is becoming evident that, as much as Wales has to offer other countries for example in helping to develop strong quality management processes, Wales has a lot to learn from other countries in developing learners’ vocational skills at a worldclass level.

There has been much discussion about Wales’ performance in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results, which is a test for 15 year olds. For 18-25 year olds who are pursuing a vocational career, WorldSkills is the key measure of success. It is the global stage whereby countries are ranked according to their cutting edge precision skills or worldclass creative flair.  For obvious reasons it is dubbed the ‘Skills Olympics’.

WorldSkills hasn’t always been on Wales’ radar. Things started to change two years ago, when two students from Wales competed as part of Team UK in WorldSkills 2009 in Calgary, Canada.  Team UK notched up a highly creditable 7th position overall out of 43 countries.

This year, with WorldSkills being staged in the UK, Wales’ colleges have realised the potential that WorldSkills offers to lift learners’ aspirations beyond the local and plant them firmly in the global marketplace.

This week at WorldSkills London 2011, Wales’ colleges have:

  • one student competitor in Team UK
  • two Team UK Managers
  • one Team UK Workshop Supervisor
  • one college presenting at the Global Skills Marketplace - an international skills conference running alongside WorldSkills
  • 12 skills Showcases on the WorldSkills stage
  • over 900 college students and staff exhibiting, volunteering or visiting 
  • one very lively interactive ‘Make it Happen Exhibition’ staged as a partnership between colegauCymru / CollegesWales, the Welsh Government and the National Training Federation for Wales.

In the run-up to WorldSkills London 2011, Wales has been a keen participant in Wales-level skills competitions, having entered the third highest number of entries in across the UK nations and English regions for WorldSkills 2011. It has also been selected to perform more than twice the number of showcases on the WorldSkills stage than would be expected from a country the size of Wales.  College staff have also been recognised – with three staff from Wales’ colleges working with Team UK. And we have one competitor from Wales in Team UK.

Wales is performing strongly against national and international comparators, then.

However, when it comes to the very best in the world, Wales could do better. We are under-represented in the UK team.

Success breeds success. Having three members of college staff from Wales as supervisors or managers for Team UK with experience of working at top international competition level should prove a key resource for all of Wales’ colleges in moving forward. 

Ian Thompson, a Team UK Manager from Coleg Llandrillo explained: “Bringing everyone together in the competition atmosphere allows individuals to shine and compare themselves skills wise to the rest of the world. This then drives up the skill level of all countries as they compete to the best.

“I know that being on an international stage will show me how the rest of the world compares to us and where we are in relation to them. From this I can then influence what is taught on the courses within my college and what we should be doing differently, if anything, in order to get the best educated students and employees in the world.”

With its sights on WorldSkills 2011 and WorldSkills 2013, the Welsh Government appointed Barry Liles, Principal of Coleg Sir Gâr as WorldSkills Champion for Wales. Mr Liles chairs a network of WorldSkills Champions from the further education sector which is proving to be a key driver for Wales-wide collaborations to raise skills levels through competitions. 

Dr John Graystone, Chief Executive of ColegauCymru / CollegesWales said: “Further education colleges in Wales are becoming recognised as high quality institutions by the Welsh Government and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate. In international terms, we are doing well, but know we have much to do.

“National and international competitions can provide the spur for both staff and students to challenge and stretch themselves continually.  WorldSkills is proving to be a strong inspirational catalyst in raising aspirations so that Wales can match the best in the world. I wish all of our participants from Wales every success in WorldSkills London 2011 and look forward to seeing Wales develop a stronger position for WorldSkills Leipzig 2013.”

Contact: Sylvia Davies on 029 2052 8384 or 07968 771913.

Notes to editors:

1. ColegauCymru / CollegesWales was previously known as fforwm. It is a national educational charity that represents all 20 further education (FE) colleges and institutions in Wales. Its mission is to raise the profile of further education with key decision-makers to improve opportunities for learners in Wales. For further information about ColegauCymru / CollegesWales, and the colleges it represents, visit www.colegaucymru.ac.uk or www.collegeswales.ac.uk

2. The Opening Ceremony for WorldSkills London 2011 takes place at the O2 Arena on 4 October.  The exhibitions and competitions take place from 5-8 October at the ExCeL Centre, London. For further information on WorldSkills visit: www.worldskillslondon2011.com or T: 0800 612 0742.

ColegauCymru, Uned 7, Cae Gwyrdd, Greenmeadow Springs, Tongwynlais Caerdydd, CF15 7AB. E:helo@colegaucymru.ac.uk Ff: 029 2052 2500
CollegesWales, Unit 7, Cae Gwyrdd, Greenmeadow Springs, Tongwynlais Cardiff, CF15 7AB. E:hello@collegeswales.ac.uk T: 029 2052 2500