The WorldSkills UK (WSUK) finals took place on 21-23 November at the NEC Birmingham. The competition finals included the SkillFRIDGE competition for RACHP apprentices, which saw seven apprentices compete for the Gold.
On the first day of the event a business breakfast briefing was hosted by Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE, chief executive of WorldSkills UK and outlined the importance of the event.
Dr Bentley-Gockmann opened the briefing by talking about the importance of WorldSkills UK in relation to the current skills crisis occurring in the country. He spoke about how the competition allows young people to experience success through a technical career and apprenticeships and provides them with “inspirational opportunities.”
With the increase in press relating to mental health, especially within industrial careers, the theme of this year’s WorldSkills event was ‘mental strength’. In order to show its support, Dr Bentley-Gockmann revealed how WorldSkills would be attempting to hold the world’s biggest mental health lesson during the event in an attempt to help raise awareness and encourage support.
Following this introduction, Rooney Anand, chairman of WSUK, took the floor for his first address since taking on the position. He focussed on emphasising the need for business leaders to help young people to achieve their potential and to take the first step on the personal career ladder.
He noted that the WSUK competition was a great place to do this as “it uniquely brings together people like employers and educators to support young people and their futures.”
Mr Anand also noted that he found the WorldSkills competition being held in Birmingham to be particularly special as he grew up in the local area and understands the importance of a helping hand. He concluded by emphasising the importance of WSUK, saying: “we don’t just think we make a difference; we know we do.”
The next speaker was Andy Street, the mayor of the West Midlands, whose focus was on technical education. From the very start his enthusiasm for the subject and the competition was clear to see and he commented on the energy that WSUK brings to the young people competing.
He went on to address the theme of the competition, applauding WSUK for addressing the issues of mental health and its importance. He noted that when speaking to the young people of Birmingham about the issues they face and what they consider to be the biggest issue of their time, the most common concern was their mental health.
Three days of competition followed the briefing for hundreds of apprentices. Sidney Copus of Star Refrigeration came away with the gold medal, followed by Ben Wilson with Silver and Joshua Collins with bronze. WSUK is constantly encouraging young people to join apprentice schemes, and will return in 2020.