Worldskills legacy international exchange & development project final report may 2015

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May 2015

  1. Introduction and Context

  2. Approach

  3. Country Reports

    1. China

    2. South Africa

    3. Russia

    4. Brazil

    5. India

  4. Additional Project Activities

    1. International workshop activities at The Skills Show, 2013 & 2014

    2. Delegation visit to WorldSkills Leipzig, 2013

  5. Recommendations

  6. Conclusions

This report details the context, approach, activities, outcomes and recommendations of the International Exchange and Development project, one of a set of five legacy projects established following WorldSkills London 2011. The report findings will be of particular interest to colleges and FE providers interested in international partnerships and to those interested or currently engaged in skills competitions. This is the position as of May 2015, but much activity is ongoing and will be developed further as a result of this legacy project.


In 2011 WorldSkills UK ( successfully hosted the WorldSkills International Competition ( in London. The value of competitions in driving vocational education and training (VET) forward has long been valued by those already engaged in these activities but in order to make a greater impact on the lives of individuals and wider economic development for the UK it was recognised that more could be done. There was an opportunity to understand more about vocational excellence. In order to add value to the UK VET system WorldSkills UK (WSUK), in alignment with WorldSkills International (WSI,) created a set of ‘Legacy Goals’ which are:

  1. To raise the profile of vocational skills;

  2. To recognize skills as critical to wider economic development;

  3. To increase levels of employer investment and commitment;

  4. For more young people to consider and enter vocational skills and careers;

  5. To generate standards of excellence in the teaching of vocational skills to support future economic development and growth.

To help achieve the goals a suite of projects were designed. Table 1 below indicates the key relationships between the projects and the legacy goals.

Table 1

The Legacy Projects

Goal 1

Goal 2

Goal 3

Goal 4

Goal 5

Developing and understanding vocational excellence

International Standards Transfer and Development

Mainstreaming Performance Excellence Qualifications

International exchanges and Development

Vocational Master Classes

Key partners from across the UK Government and the further education, skills and apprenticeship sector have been engaged in the delivery of these legacy projects. These aim to transfer excellence in training and performance, competition standards and international best practice from the WorldSkills arena to mainstream vocational education and training across the UK. One of the other key objectives, for all five projects, was how the sector could build on the success of WorldSkills London 2011 and position itself for future developments in the field of skills competitions activity.

One of the five projects is the International Exchange Development Project. Led latterly by Find a Future with funding from the Skills Funding Agency and project managed by the AoC in partnership with the British Council, this project’s main objective was to seek joint activity for mutual growth in vocational education and training and business development, linked with skills competition activity, with China, Brazil, India, Russia, South Africa and Australia. It built on close cooperation with several of these countries.

In China, AoC has been working in partnership with the British Council there for a number of years including, since 2010, the contribution of UK vocational knowledge through the UK-China Partners in International Education (UKCPIE) Programme. More recently the AoC has been a delivery partner on the UKCPIE’s Principals’ Shadowing Programme which has linked vocational college leaders in both the UK and China. A result of this China work is that AoC now facilitate a China VET Forum which allows those UK colleges interested in working in China the opportunity to meet, get updates from key organisations in China (including the British Council) and to work together collaboratively on initiatives in the country.

In Brazil the AoC made a strategic commitment to exploring and researching partnership and commercial opportunities on behalf of its member colleges in-country. This has led to strong relationships with key government stakeholders in Brazil, with UKTI in-country and with key VET sector organisations such as SENAI, SENAC and CONIF. A number of projects have also been realised including the piloting of a Leadership Exchange Project and there is also a very active Latin American (LatAm) Business Group, facilitated by AoC, consisting of a number of AoC member college international directors.

In South Africa, AoC has historically been particularly supportive to the VET sector. The previous Chair of AoC and AoC’s International Director travelled out for meetings with VET sector leaders in 2011, when South Africa was keen to create their own Association of Colleges. Since then, and through support from the British Council in country, many UK colleges have been engaged in Skills for Employability projects with South African TVET college partners. AoC was also approached in 2014 by the British Council for their support and assistance in developing a Leadership Exchange Project based on the good practice experienced with the Chinese programme. The pilot of the Leadership Exchange Programme took place in Spring/Summer 2015 and it is hoped this will lead on to further opportunities for exchange of practice.

AoC has worked with key players in the VET sector in India for a number of years including the National Skills Development Corporation, the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI). In 2011, some research was undertaken, on behalf of member colleges, to ascertain the feasibility of setting up an office in India in order to pursue partnership and income generating opportunities for UK colleges. Launched in January 2013 in New Delhi by the former Minister for Skills, Matthew Hancock, AoC India initially brought together 33 UK colleges in a membership organisation with a clear remit to seek out and succeed in being a partner of choice for key VET projects in India. More recently, many UK colleges have been successful in gaining grant funding for institutional partnership projects through UKIERI (UK India Education Research Initiative) and further consortia of UK colleges have also benefited from UKIERI funding to work in partnership with Indian organisations in the setting up of a number of Community Colleges in-country.


The country specific work in the project was initially split between AoC, NAS and British Council as follows:


Lead Partner

Activity as set out in grant agreement



Through the wider WorldSkills International network with Australia to explore a model for “international apprenticeships” in advanced technologies

To continue the mutual challenge for the WSC.


British Council

To support the fulfilment of the MoUs with China’s Ministries of Education and Human Resources and Social Security with particular reference to the 5 themes with MoHRSS and the development of apprenticeships and employer engagement with the Ministry of Education.

Russia, Brazil, India and South Africa


To use the AoC’s college network to progress

the mutual development of apprenticeships and employer engagement.

To provide, in tandem with the British Council, support for the development of exchanges and development associated with skills competitions and performance excellence.

Plans were agreed for all countries, however, due to changes in the contract management and reorganisations impacting the management of WorldSkills UK, WorldSkills International and skills competition activity there were some delays in the IED project.

There were elements of additional activity not specifically linked to the countries identified, but which were of an international focus and contributed to links with the BRICSA countries. These were:

  • International workshop activities at The Skills Show in 2013 and 2014

  • Delegation to WorldSkills Leipzig 2013

The country specific delivery plans for the project were as follows:




Skills Roadshows in China.

Raised awareness of how vocational education can lead to career success.

UK-China WorldSkills pressure test

Shared best practice on preparation for skills competitions.

Participation in joint UK China events at WS Leipzig in 2013.

Existing partnerships consolidated and developed.

Policy dialogue at Going Global, Miami.

Informed large numbers in relevant audience of the value of VET in stimulating economic growth.




To undertake an initial analysis of Brazil’s VET and WSC preparation

Through AoC’s existing development work in Brazil and Latin America, initial tailored labour market information was available which helped inform discussions around collaboration with Brazil in the run up to WorldSkills Sao Paulo 2015.

To implement the areas of collaboration including

  • manufacturing standards and skills

  • competition preparation

A project visit took place to Brazil in September 2013 led by AoC with participation from WorldSkills UK team trainer in culinary arts.

To agree a programme of collaboration including but not exclusively employer engagement and WSC preparations

In tandem with WorldSkills UK’s participation in Competition Preparation Week (February 2015) a senior leadership delegation was planned led by Find a Future and AoC.

To evaluate the effectiveness of the collaboration and plan potential next steps

Follow up activity with key Brazilian stakeholders is taking place in the run up to WorldSkills Sao Paulo 2015.




A study visit to explore Russia’s support needs and potential for reciprocal value to the UK in the areas of

  • Russia’s participation in national skills competitions

  • links in manufacturing, science and technology and employer engagement/apprenticeships for the UK

A small group travelled out to Moscow to participate in the 2013 WorldSkills Russia national competition.

  • To offer (remote) support to Russia’s preparation programme up to and including participation in WS events

  • To engage employers with UK-Russia interests in this event

Some political obstacles to continuing the dialogue with Russia.




Through a study visit to explore India’s support needs and potential for reciprocal value to the UK in the areas of

  • India’s participation in WSL 2013 and

  • links in manufacturing, science and technology and employer engagement/apprenticeships for the UK

Activity with India has been limited.

Links have been made and members of the project team met with Indian representatives in Leipzig and have had on-going online communication with them.

  • To offer (remote) support to India’s preparation programme up to and including participation in WSL 2013

  • To engage employers with UK-India interests in this event

Members of the project team offered support and advice to the Indian film company developing a reality television show around apprenticeships and skills competitions called ‘Skilled to Win’.
The team facilitated links between NSDC India and Find a Future as India looks to further develop its national skills show into a model replicating elements from the UK’s The Skills Show. This is now resulting in a delegation coming to The Skills Show and AoC Annual Conference in 2015.




Carry out desk research into South African VET sector and the role of skills competitions.

Report produced.

With the British Council’s support, to establish a programme of development with merSETA and other sector skills councils which

  • Supports South Africa’s participation in WSL 2013 and

  • Builds links in manufacturing, science and technology and employer engagement/apprenticeships for the UK

The Chief Executive of merSETA had visits to The Skills Show and AoC Annual Conference in 2012 and 2013 to build practical knowledge of the implementation of The Skills Show and meet with key UK stakeholders. We met further with merSETA at WS Leipzig in 2013 to continue discussions.

To host a South African delegation to the UK’s Skills Show to observe the event and progress the development programme to mutual advantage

As above, with additional visit in both 2013 and 2014 by representatives of College of Cape Town who were involved in development of WS South Africa’s national skills show.

  • To support the South African WSL preparation programme up to and including participation in the UK Team Selection Competition

  • To engage employers with UK-SA interests in this

Programme of project activities led by the principal of Kendal College. Delivery of Masterclass to South African visitors to UK (2013). Joint skills competition in Cape Town between UK and South African competitors (2014).

  • To support the South African preparation programme up to and including participation in WorldSkills South Africa’s inaugural national skills show.

Tailored delegation to South Africa January 2015. UK group gave presentations around specific areas of interest to SA.

To evaluate the effectiveness of the collaboration and plan potential next steps

A visit report detailed the next steps in sustaining collaboration between the UK and South Africa regarding skills competitions and wider VET agenda.



The activity in China was project managed by the British Council in-country. The grant monies disbursed to British Council China through the IED funding contributed to a larger overall programme of activity through the British Council’s flagship Skills programme, Skills for Employability. The activity formed part of the plans from two MoUs between the UK and China. Also linked to this was the work undertaken through the UK China Partners in Education and has included large delegations of Chinese vocational education and training (VET) college principals participating in a leadership exchange programme with UK counterparts. Their programme in the UK included visits to The Skills Show.

Skills Roadshow and UK-China WorldSkills Pressure test
Chongqing, Xi’an, Guangzhou, April through to October 2013

Considered the flagship activity for Tier 3 cities in China, Skills for Employability at the British Council in China organised a series of WorldSkills Champions Roadshows. The Roadshows brought former competitors from the British WorldSkills team to demonstrate their skills to audiences of young Chinese students.

The pressure test allowed potential competitors in WorldSkills competitions the opportunity to practice their skills under the pressure of a real life competition environment.


  • Raise awareness of how vocational education can lead to career success: The Roadshows brought aspiring young Chinese students into contact with highly successful young British people who had mastered their skills through vocational training.

  • Sharing best practice on preparation for skills competitions: Experts from the UK and China shared ideas and best practice on how best to train up a successful WorldSkills team.

WorldSkills Leipzig, July 2013

At the WorldSkills competition in Leipzig, AoC and the British Council jointly organised a series of events designed to consolidate the UK-China WorldSkills Legacy College Partnerships. British and Chinese representatives from these college partnership groups met to discuss ways to further develop and deepen their collaboration, including specifically plans to develop a common set of international standards based on WorldSkills standards.

In addition, the British Council promoted the skills work they have been doing in China to a wide range of stakeholders, and explored the possibility of enriching this work by expanding its geographic scope to include neighbouring regions.


  • Existing partnerships consolidated and developed: representatives from several of the eight UK-China WorldSkills Legacy IED College Partnerships met to discuss the development of their partnerships and to share new ideas for innovative collaboration.

  • New links developed: the British Council has begun to develop links with skills bodies in Hong Kong and other neighbouring areas to explore the possibility of regional skills projects.

  • Best practice spread: the British Council delivered presentations on the work they deliver in China to high profile representatives from TVET sectors around the world. An article was published further promoting this work.

Policy dialogue at Going Global

The British Council’s Going Global event is a global forum for world leaders of international education to debate the role the international arena plays in global tertiary education policy. The British Council Skills team ran a session that explores how employers and educational institutions can work together effectively to use skills competitions to bridge the global skills gap. The session involves high-profile speakers from the McKinsey Institute and the Chinese and Indian governments.


  • Informed large numbers of key people from the world of international education and government about the value of technical and vocational education in stimulating economic growth.

  • Publicise the work that the British Council has been doing on skills in China

  • Share international best practice on utilising vocational education strategies to increase employment rates and encourage economic growth.


As part of the project we commissioned a small piece of research from an external consultant (ex-British Council) who had a strong understanding of the South African VET system through a history of working in the country. This identified a number of key issues that South Africa was facing as a BRICS country. Many strategies had already been put in place to assist in the economic regeneration of the country and the improvement of vocational education and training as part of the South African government’s National Development Plan. AoC had been working with the British Council in South Africa to help them to set up an independent Association of Colleges of South Africa, although it did not survive in that particular format and has since been replaced by the South African Colleges Principals’ Organisation (SACPO).

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Links already existed with key skills sector stakeholders in South Africa at the start of the project. Although slow to take off, the main activity’s catalyst was attendance at WorldSkills Leipzig in 2013, where the Principal of Kendal College, Graham Wilkinson, had arranged to meet with South African partners. Links were renewed with merSETA whilst in Leipzig and the opportunity presented itself for a small-scale collaboration between Kendal College and the College of Cape Town. Funding provided through the IED project initially supported a two way exchange between the two colleges for students and staff and focussed very specifically in the provision of CPD Masterclass sessions for vocational staff involved in training potential skills competitors and also some pressure tested competitions between the UK and South African student teams. UK students won several competitions along with their South African student counterparts. These were filmed and are available:

Cooking Competition:
Hairdressing Preparation:

What started off as a relatively small-scale partnership morphed into a bigger ‘movement’ in South Africa. Kendal College and College of Cape Town’s partnership’s achievements and activities were showcased in a number of regional and national networks across South Africa including the importance of bringing the ethos of competitions into the classroom to improve teaching and learning. A group of committed VET professionals in the country worked hard, with assistance from colleagues in the UK, to put in place the first official WorldSkills South Africa National Skills Show in January 2015.

To contribute to the inaugural event in Cape Town, AoC and Find a Future put together a delegation team that would add value to the conference programme that ran parallel to the competitions and ‘Try a Skill’ activities. The team consisted of Find a Future and AoC representatives who could add a national perspective on competition related activity in the UK, The Skills Show and The Skills Show Experience and the impact of these in terms of raising the profile and attractiveness of VET. International team members from AoC provided the link up with UK colleges’ international activities and projects (including some existing international projects in South Africa focussing on competitions). There were also three college representatives who came from colleges with experience which varied from highly involved in skills competitions to marginal involvement. This enabled a lot of sharing of expertise internally within the UK group. And we also invited a UK Training Manager for WorldSkills UK and a WorldSkills London 2011 gold medal winner who both gave inspirational presentations to the South African conference delegates. WorldSkills London 2011 alumni, Shane Trevitt, had previously been in South Africa as part of the WorldSkills Foundation project on a sanitation project in the townships in Johannesburg. This has provided link up with the Foundation as mentioned later in the report.

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Visiting College of Cape Town provided an opportunity for wider discussion on future skills competition collaboration and the chance to meet vocational learners

The show was an excellent event and a great success, given the constraints the organisers had in terms of time, resources and expertise. The visit allowed the UK group to observe the first National Skills Show and to feedback to the organising committee in South Africa as a ‘critical friend’ so as to make improvements and amendments for the future. Indeed, Find a Future is now due to contribute to a specific training conference in South Africa for VET professionals later in 2015 and the collaboration will continue.

The visit in January 2015 did also include some time in Johannesburg and Pretoria in meetings with key VET sector stakeholders including the Department of Higher Education & Training (DHET), merSETA (sector skills council), the British Council, UKTI and some regional training providers (a TVET college and a private training provider).

Back in the UK there has been interest from Baroness Scotland, the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy for South Africa. Baroness Scotland has set up an education working group to look at how UK education providers can contribute to the education and skills elements of South Africa’s National Development Plan. AoC is now contributing to this working group and will use best practice from the IED project.

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  • Understanding of South Africa’s VET system, its challenges and opportunities;

  • Good practice in skills competitions demonstrated through UK/South African college level collaboration led to national engagement including the organisation of the inaugural WorldSkills South Africa’s National Skills Show;

  • Sharing of best practice amongst UK providers involved in this project

  • UK Government level acknowledgement of the importance of UK skills sector expertise in meeting objectives of working with South Africa.

  • Further partnership activities are being established with a CPD workshop for South African VET professionals planned to take place in June 2015.


An appropriate opportunity to work with Russia arose with an invitation to attend the 2nd Open Moscow Skills Competition in October 2013. This presented an ideal opportunity for the project team, at the time, to develop a strong working relationship with Russia. Russia was beginning to recognise and embrace the opportunities and advantages that involvement in international WorldSkills competitions bring and were keen to build upon their experiences and lessons learnt whilst preparing their 1st Moscow Skills Competition and participation in Leipzig earlier that year. To support this strategy, they invited WorldSkills experts to attend and support their national competition taking place in Moscow.

During the competition, WorldSkills Russia proposed a whole range of educational events such as workshops, conferences, round table discussions and an exhibition of the educational institutions for Moscow and the Moscow Region. In addition, during the four days of the Competition they welcomed several thousand guests including government representatives, educational organisations, representatives of social enterprises and the business sector.

This provided the small UK delegation with an excellent networking opportunity and a realistic chance of meeting and engaging with key players from government, education and business all in one place. At the same time, it provided a catalyst to identify future collaborative work within the international WorldSkills community. It also provided opportunities to understand and collaborate on VET and Apprenticeship reform systems and to provide a foundation for wider provider and FE college exchanges.

The 2nd Open Moscow Skills Competition attracted more than 600 young people from Moscow and other regions of Russia competing against each other in fifteen skills.

  • Welding

  • Mechatronics

  • Cooking

  • Hairdressing

  • Beauty Therapy

  • Web Design

  • IT Network Administration

  • Automobile Technology

  • Autobody Repair

  • Car Painting

  • CNC Turning

  • CNC Milling

  • Jewellery

  • Refrigeration and Air Conditioning

  • Mobile Robotics

The Competition was also preceded by the meeting of the WSI Board of Directors in Moscow.

The former WorldSkills UK Technical Expert from NAS led the delegation visit to Moscow and was key in liaising with Russian colleagues regarding the programme for the group.

The small delegation also included, AoC’s International Director, who specifically wanted more involvement in WorldSkills and competition related activity so as to encourage the link-up between this and international work that AoC member colleges are currently engaged in. Additionally, two college representatives took part.

Barnet & Southgate College have been engaged in skills competitions but wanted to increase their participation and understanding of the benefits and sent their Corporate Communications Director. Additionally, the UK Expert for Mechatronics, from Northern Regional College in Northern Ireland attended. As a college they have a mandate for seeking positive international partnerships. An added bonus, during the visit, was a meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, who is responsible for social issues. The Deputy Prime Minister also has responsibility for employment and vocational educational and training with a mandate during 2013/14 to plan a large budget to enable the creation of professional standards. Existing standards were not fit for purpose due to a lack of involvement from the business community and industry and, in this regard, there were things that the UK could share with Russian colleagues.

Follow up was made with some of the key contacts made during the visit but, due to the ensuing political sensitivities with Russia these have not resulted in any concrete actions to be taken forward.


  • Understanding of the roles and functions of lead agencies and the VET system in Russia

  • Understanding of the way colleges operate through visits to Russian VET institutions

  • Understanding of reform agenda, particularly around professional standards


Brazil was an important, strategic partner in the project due to its role as future host to WorldSkills 2015 which takes place in Sao Paolo.

Building on AoC’s existing knowledge and experience of the vocational education sector in Latin America, the project has included a number of activities which have enabled UK practitioners involved in competitions to share practice with and understand competition preparation in Brazil. 

An initial project visit to Brazil was carried out by Ayesha Williams (AoC’s International Charter & Policy Manager) with Yolande Stanley (team trainer with WorldSkills UK for pastry and chocolate) and Alexandra Jones (head of department at Westminster Kingsway College). The visit programme seminar provided Team UK representatives (Technical Expert and a trainer) and SENAI in Brazil with the opportunity to share their WorldSkills’ missions and journeys, including best practice.

The seminar provided the opportunity for UK and Brazilian representatives to plan future collaboration including WorldSkills competitor/expert/trainer exchanges and pressure-testing in priority areas identified by the UK and Brazil. Follow up action included AoC and Find a Future putting together a delegation visit to Brazil for senior VET leaders. The focus being preparing for Brazil 2015 plus exchanging good VET practice through visits to vocational schools and meetings with trade associations etc.

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Meeting with Simon Bartley, President, UK delegation in Sao Paulo
WorldSkills International in Sao Paulo

The most recent activity was the visit by a UK delegation which included Find a Future and AoC representatives and senior leadership representatives from UK colleges, which took place in Brazil in February 2015.  Part of this visit ran in parallel to WorldSkills Competition Preparation Week for Sao Paulo 2015 at which technical delegates were attending from all the participating WorldSkills countries.  This enabled some crossover of experience and a deeper understanding of the preparation required before a major international competition of this level. 

Additionally, the group visited the competition site, met with the organising committee and also had visits to and meetings with key stakeholders in Brazil, e.g. colleges, a hotel school where competitors engage in pressure testing for skills competitions, SENAI (National Service for Industrial Training - a network of colleges established by the Brazilian Confederation of Industry) and SENAC. 

The work within the Brazil strand of the project enabled more college to college engagement and has also strengthened the agency to agency relationships (i.e. Find a Future as the organisation responsible for The Skills Show and SENAI Sao Paolo as the organisation responsible for WorldSkills Sao Paulo and their national skills competitions). The visit also paved the way for a variety of activity in association with WSI Sao Paulo, including a joint Find a Future, AoC, UKTI approach to ensuring that UK business is well represented at the international event in 2015.


  • An understanding of the potential for UK/Brazil partnerships through gaining insights into the current system in Brazil and compare and contrast systems/frameworks and share practice;

  • An understanding of how Brazil prepare for skills competitions and how this impacts on competition success nationally in-country;

  • An understanding of the environment that UK participants will face during WorldSkills Sao Paulo;

  • A greater understanding of financial and consular assistance available from organisations such as the British Council, British Embassy and UKTI to enable follow up after the visit and potential for project partnership support.

  • Joint AoC/Find a Future activities in preparation for Sao Paulo.


Activity with India has been limited. Most of the engagement that has taken place has been informally, rather than formally through the project. This is due to a number of factors including the changes in responsibility for the WorldSkills Legacy projects and the time it takes to agree arrangements for activities in-country.

Links were made, however, and UK representatives met with WorldSkills India counterparts (the National Skills Development Council – NSDC) in Leipzig and have had on-going online communication with them since.
AoC international team representatives have had meetings with NSDC, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) at the AoC India launch week in New Delhi in 2013. The discussions with NSDC were followed up in Leipzig and good working relationships have been formed.
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The UK project team also offered support and advice to the Indian film company developing a reality television show around apprenticeships and skills competitions called ‘Skilled to Win’ and the team also facilitated links between NSDC India and Find a Future as India looks to further develop its national skills show into a model replicating elements from the UK’s The Skills Show. This is now resulting in a delegation coming to The Skills Show and AoC Annual Conference in 2015 with a small group of Indian WorldSkills competitors aiming to compete alongside UK competitors at The Skills Show.

  • Increased understanding of the massive challenges and opportunities of the Indian VET sector;

  • Experience and expertise shared with TV production company making a programme on vocational skills;

  • Good working partnerships built with key VET sector stakeholders in India;

  • Laid the foundations for increased UK/India joint engagement in skills competitions in 2015.


4.1 International Workshop activities at The Skills Show, 2013 and 2014

The objective was to encourage more VET leaders and practitioners to attend The Skills Show and provide a comprehensive programme of development activities which would enhance their visit. This included a peer review and development forum in 2013 amongst UK and international delegates for the sharing of best practice around skills competitions and standards in those countries and, in 2014, a more structured workshop programme including presentations on case studies from the IED project, EU partnerships and international exporting of VET.

These workshop programmes complemented the main VET conference held the previous day and were part of a strategic move to build a holistic showcase programme of VET excellence for senior leaders and around the framework of The Skills Show.

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Graham Wilkinson, Principal, Kendal College and Ebrahim Peters, Deputy CEO, College of Cape Town presenting their partnership project during workshops at The Skills Show


  • The introduction of an international element into The Skills Show;

  • To showcase best practice gained through the IED project;

  • To encourage participation of UK colleges in international activities.

4.2 Delegation visit to WorldSkills Leipzig 2013

The IED Project Manager worked with AoC’s Director of WorldSkills Engagement and colleagues at Find a Future to deliver an appropriate programme for UK VET delegates in Leipzig which included:

  • Attendance at the WorldSkills Leaders’ Forum;

  • Observational/assessment exercises within the competition space;

  • Global Skills Marketplace workshops;

  • Team briefing by WorldSkills UK;

  • Networking receptions.

The main objectives of the visit were to:

  • To develop UK practitioners’ understanding of the Skills Competitions methodology employed by key European and international countries through careful observation and assessment in-situ;

  • To understand the importance of Vocational Education & Training (VET) excellence in driving up standards and increasing the attractiveness of VET to potential learners, employees, employers, industry and government stakeholders;

  • To recognise the importance of competition to global economies and to accept it as an essential part.

At a wider level the delegation to Leipzig also aimed to:

  • Take the opportunity to look at EU and international level co-operation on Skills Competitions and look at ways of supporting future collaborative activity.

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The visit also provided an opportunity for some UK colleges linked with Chinese institutions through IED funded contribution to the British Council’s Skills for Employability programme to meet and have valuable partnership meetings. Another unintentional, but very welcome outcome was that it allowed the Principal of Kendal College to meet with South African visitors to WS2013 in Leipzig and plan potential South Africa related IED activity which will be reported about in more depth in the South Africa section.

  • UK colleges met with their Chinese partners to further cement skills related international projects they were collaborating on;

  • Principals of UK colleges with little engagement in skills competitions were exposed to the benefits of getting involved;

  • UK representatives had time away from the ‘day job’ to share practice with other UK colleagues and build UK partnerships;

  • Opportunity to observe world class VET in practice at the competitions;

  • Opportunity to meet with other international WorldSkills community representatives from India, Brazil and South Africa which would assist some of the country specific strands of the IED project.


The project has proved that the sharing of best practice internationally around areas important to the VET sector, and especially around skills competitions, is extremely useful and can be of mutual benefit. Some of the recommendations resulting from the project are:

  • UK VET providers who currently engage in or are interested in international work within their own organisations should look at the opportunities for international dialogue through the medium of skills competitions. Kendal College’s experience with the College of Cape Town in their joint student level skills competitions was a motivator for both students and staff;

  • Skills competitions are an excellent way to drive up standards in VET teaching and learning and can be embedded into every day VET delivery as part of international partnerships ;

  • Small amounts of seed funding can produce results at a national level (as in South Africa);

  • Key sector stakeholders (government, employers, and providers) affect change when they work collaboratively together.


The IED project has produced some significant achievements.

The main benefits of the project have been the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of other countries’ VET sectors, including competition activities, and the challenges and opportunities the governments in these countries face in delivering an education and training system that raises aspirations, bridges skills gaps, increases employment and employability and contributes to growing the global economy. In South Africa, for example, the Department for Higher Education (DHET) has become significantly more involved in WorldSkills South Africa’s activities in recognition of the role skills competitions can play in the country in term of raising the profile of vocational pathways and the aspirations of young people.
The others benefits, though, have been equally important. Having the opportunity to learn from other countries’ systems and processes allows us to reflect on our own practices, both nationally and within our own organisations. Many of those who participated in some of the project related visits remarked on this, and additionally on how travelling with other UK representatives was also a learning opportunity. Those involved in the visits ranged from those with a high level of experience and understanding of skills competitions to those with very little. The opportunity to learn from peers was invaluable and to develop both counties’ own and partnership activities around skills competitions.
The partnership between AoC and Find a Future, whilst strong to start with, has kept on growing. AoC International team members, who have been heavily involved in the project, have a much greater understanding of the benefits of skills competitions and can now easily see the link-up between this and the international activities that many of AoC’s member colleges are engaged in.
And finally, this WorldSkills Legacy project has now produced a legacy (or a future) of its own. In Brazil, India, China and South Africa collaboration continues, post-funding, to build on the foundations built through the IED project.
South Africa’s National Skills Show was a real achievement in itself, but to enable it to grow the partnership with the UK and with other international WorldSkills communities will continue. A skills competition based CPD workshop is already planned for July 2015 in South Africa with input from UK practitioners and further collaboration will take place in November at The Skills Show in Birmingham as part of a planned delegation from South Africa to the show.
A delegation from India will arrive in November 2015 which will include decision makers, practitioners and competitors hoping to learn from the UK, which we hope will result in future, mutually beneficial partnership work. And discussions between AoC, Find a Future and the WorldSkills Foundation mean that harnessing the expertise gained through skills competitions can also be used to help those suffering from poverty, lack of access to sanitation and to education in a range of international aid projects.
Where the team saw that there would be less opportunity to pursue activity in certain countries, i.e. Australia and Russia, it was able to re-allocate these funds to areas where there were more advantageous opportunities (South Africa and Brazil).
The project team would like to thank those, both in the UK and internationally, who have participated in or supported the International Exchange & Development project.

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