23 Jul 2024


Equipping young people with skills for life

In the never-ending quest to boost the UK’s present and future engineering skills, Gambica is backing the Worldskills competition-based training and assessment scheme as a way of attracting and fostering new talent. Nikesh Mistry*, Gambica’s sector head for automation, explains the background.

We are living through extraordinary times. An era that will never be forgotten and has rewritten the future of economic, political and societal factors. But as we move forward, so must our current workforce and, in turn, the future workforce must follow. It is imperative, now more than ever, that we focus on ensuring the future of manufacturing and industry and that it remains a champion in the UK.

One way in which we at Gambica feel this can be achieved is by focusing on our universities and students. Presently, there is a large gap between industry and academia which, if bridged, can open a variety of opportunities for both sides. Gambica has several university members but we have decided to broaden our reach to include a further network of universities that we can help to collaborate with our industry members.

We have explored the methods and practices that Gambica could use to deliver value to students, university staff and industry members to augment their teaching materials and equipment, offer relevant work placements, guide research, access industrial technologies and data, and ultimately retain talent in careers in our industry.

An on-going topic is that academics would like Gambica to use our establishment of a reliable pool of employers for placements and apprenticeships to take on a more formal role in bridging the gap between industry and teaching institutions.

We’ve discovered that academics feel the best practice for collaboration with industry is through routes such as academic placements, and focusing on primary and secondary education. Using existing initiatives, such as Made Smarter UK and Primary and Secondary Engineer, Gambica can act as an ambassador to open up opportunities and increase the awareness of where synergies can be made between academia and industry. One opportunity we have come across recently, which we would like to raise awareness of, is WorldSkills UK.
WorldSkills UK is an independent charity and a partnership between employers, education and governments. It uses international best practice to help young people, whatever their background, to develop their skills sets to get the best start in work and life.

WorldSkills UK is part of a global movement in more than 80 countries, which supports young people across the world through competition-based training and assessment. Every two years, WorldSkills hosts an international competition known as the “skills Olympics” where competitors have the opportunity to be crowned the world’s best in their particular skill.

Closer to home, WorldSkills UK runs more than 60 national competitions across a host of disciplines where young people who shine could end up competing for their country. The competitions are a seven-month process including regional heats and intensive training before stepping up to the ultimate test of a national final in November.

The programme has a real impact on those taking part, with 90% of previous entrants saying that their career progression improved after competing, and 86% believing that their personal and employability skills had improved.

Working with partners such as Festo, Fanuc and Middlesex University, the competitions help young people to develop the technical and employability skills required by industry, as well as shining a light on the amazing skills potential in the UK.

The engineering and technology section is home to established competitions in areas such as automation, mechatronics and industrial robotics. This year, WorldSkills UK has added an Industry 4.0 competition to that portfolio.

As well as the competitions-based programmes, WorldSkills UK runs careers advice workshops across a variety of sectors. From career and skills demonstrations that give a taste of how a skills or interest can become a career, to expert advice at live careers days or on-demand content, there is a huge range of resources on the organisation’s Web site (www.worldskillsuk.org).

WorldSkills UK deputy CEO Ben Blackledge says: “Our competitions and competition-based development programmes equip apprentices and students with the lifelong, world-class skills that will help increase UK productivity and competitiveness.

“We have an ambitious agenda to continue to grow the pipeline in these important areas and would encourage anyone to get in touch if they want more information on how to partner with us in developing skills and getting new talent into their sectors.”

* Gambica is the trade association for the automation, control, instrumentation and laboratory technology sectors in the UK.
For more information, please contact Nikesh Mistry on 020 7642 8094 or via nikesh.mistry@gambica.org.uk