Principal and Chief Executive Officer of Boston College, Jo Maher explains why skills competitions are so valuable for students and employers in the UK.

All businesses are competitive irrespective of their raison d'être. In the race to build profits, to be the first to take a product to market, to provide the highest quality or best service, the strongest businesses benefit from employing staff who are able to adopt a competitive mindset. It is therefore not surprising that in an analysis of Ofsted data, WorldSkills UK found that colleges who adopted skills competitions are more likely to be outstanding that those that do not.

Skills competitions help students to develop further key employability skills in: 

  • effective team work
  • communicating with others
  • problem-solving and 
  • time-management. 

Learners also develop confidence and networking skills, which are useful in their future careers. Importantly, the skill extension opportunities that competitions provide help students to develop high-level technical skills through completing additional and stretching activities. The competition environment promotes the opportunity for students to produce work of a quality well beyond their qualification level. Through fostering this extension of students’ experiences and skills, students gain confidence by demonstrating that they can meet industry standards.

At Boston College, our students have benefitted from skills competitions and more importantly our employers have reaped the rewards of this approach.  Steve Garrard, Director at Multi-Plumb stated: “Since attending the competition our apprentice has become more eager to learn new skills.  He has gained confidence in his own ability which is at a higher level than he previously thought. This has benefited the company as he can now be given a varied workload and be left to carry out the work to a high standard.”  The standout factor for employers is that students’ motivation improves and their ability to recover from setbacks resulting in higher levels of resilience and confidence. Find me any industry that would not want a staff member with those traits.

Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills.  It inspects and regulates services providing education and skills for learners of all ages. 

WorldSkills UK  is all about helping young people go further, faster in their careers, gaining the skills that employers need most. This includes skills competitions and other large-scale initiatives that show-case the benefits of vocational education.