Worldskills Written evidence (EDU0035)


1.0           Introduction

1.1            WorldSkills UK is an independent charity and four nations partnership between education, industry, and governments. As a world-class skills network, we are a catalyst for: raising standards in apprenticeships and technical education, championing future skills, and empowering young people.

1.2            We welcome the Committee’s inquiry into Education for 11 to 16 Year Olds and the focus on progress into post-16 education and employment in a future digital and green economy and in this submission share some of the insights from our own experience of engaging 11-16 year olds in careers conversations and insights from research that we have commissioned on both digital and green careers to inform the development of our skills programmes. Our analysis has shown that, despite strong appetite for digital and green careers, the majority of young people lack awareness on the skills employers need and related training pathways.

1.3            WorldSkills UK recognises the broad scope of the committee’s inquiry and we have focused our submission on answering the following topics: the availability and attractiveness of technical and vocational options; skills needed to progress into post-16 education and employment in a future digital and green economy; lessons from educational policy and practice from overseas. 


2.0                Young people need more information on digital and green career paths 

2.1            Findings from WorldSkills UK’s forthcoming Manufacturing Excellence report suggest that young people have confidence in technical qualifications and apprenticeships, with over nine in ten agreeing that these training routes can lead to a highly-skilled well paid career[1]. In other sectors our research has shown a majority of young people (55 per cent)[2] feel inspired to develop green skills and pursue a green career, whilst 51 per cent[3] report being attracted to a career that requires advanced digital skills.

2.2            Research by the Learning and Work Institute for WorldSkills UK and Enginuity in 2021[4] showed that careers information, advice and guidance was not keeping in line with the burgeoning business demand for digital skills. Of the 2,017 young people aged 16-24 polled only half agreed that they had had adequate careers advice to be informed about the careers open to them that require advanced digital skills, and fewer than one in five reported being confident of possessing the advanced digital skills employers require. This is despite nearly nine in ten recognising that digital skills would be essential to their career. 

2.3            This challenge is even greater for skills that can support the UK’s transition to net zero. Our research[5] found that over half of young people felt inspired to pursue a green career, but fewer than one in five had learnt about green skills at their school or college. It also found that young people aged between 16-17 are significantly less likely than the average across those aged 16-24 to say that they understand employers’ green skills requirements (17 per cent versus 22 per cent), which suggests that careers information, advice and guidance at the 11-16 phase hasn’t been successful. Young women also face significant additional barriers to pursuing a green career. They were more likely to report not understanding what green jobs are available, not knowing how to acquire green skills, and not knowing the green skills employers require.


2.4            WorldSkills UK has committed to demonstrate that digital skills are for everyone, as well as empower young people of all backgrounds to build skills and pursue careers that will tackle climate change. This includes developing free and engaging content on digital and green career options for schools and colleges to use as part of their careers offer- meeting Gatsby Benchmarks 2, 4, 5, and 7 via the WorldSkills UK Learning Lab. This includes skill areas such as generative design and additive manufacturing in partnership with Autodesk, as well as data and IT careers in partnership with Amazon and BCS. We also have an inspiring and diverse group of former skills competitors or ‘Skills Champions’, who we work with to break down barriers and show young people that technical and vocational pathways can lead to successful and prestigious digital and green careers.


3.0                This will be key to meeting demand for digital and green skills in all sectors

3.1            Empowering young people to pursue technical and vocational options is vital to meeting demand for digital and green skills across all sectors of the economy. There is a near universal demand for basic digital skills, and significant demand for advanced digital skills. Our research found that basic digital skills are particularly important for employees in sectors such as media, marketing, advertising and PR (100%), IT and telecoms (99%), and finance and accounting (97%). However, even in the industry with the lowest proportion of employers agreeing that basic digital skills were important for their workers – manufacturing – still nearly nine in ten (87%) reported they were important.[6] Meanwhile green skills are needed in a range of industries, with demand strongest in Electric Vehicles and Sustainable Transport; Clean Energies; Sustainable Manufacturing; and Low Carbon Construction[7].


3.2            In response to this pressing demand for digital and green skills, WorldSkills UK is seeking to support the pipeline of high-quality skills needed through our competition-based skills development programmes. These help to showcase the high-quality technical and vocational pathways available and raise standards in skills being delivered. For example, WorldSkills UK is rolling out competition-based training in areas such as additive manufacturing, and seeking to adapt existing automotive programmes in partnership with the Institute for Motor Industry to help tackle the UK’s shortage of Electric Vehicle technicians. We are also helping to bring the UK qualification design and apprenticeship standards in Digital Construction in line with international best practice, supported by employers such as Autodesk, Balfour Beatty and Baker Hicks who use WorldSkills UK’s competitions to identify talent, drive up standards, and recruit the very best young professionals.

3.3            In playing this role, WorldSkills UK can help to boost the UK’s productivity and competitiveness for foreign direct investment across the four nations and regions. As found by WorldSkills UK’s Skills Taskforce for Global Britain, attracting firms that are internationally mobile in sectors such as digital and clean tech will require the availability of the right skills and making technical education routes more attractive and prestigious for young people[8].

4.0                Learning from education policy and practice overseas can spur growth in key sectors

4.1            As a member of the 85-nation strong WorldSkills International network, WorldSkills UK is able to witness how other countries are raising the bar in the delivery of technical skills as a route to growth. By benchmarking UK skills against global industry standards via biennial competitions with the rest of the world, we are uniquely positioned to identify innovative methods of training and assessment and mainstream international best practice into classrooms and workshops nationwide. By drawing on this experience, we would like to highlight to the committee two countries that have high standards and prestige in technical and vocational options, and are equipping young people with world-class skills, evidenced by consistently high rankings in WorldSkills competitions.

4.2            In Switzerland, where two thirds of young people pursue technical and vocational options[9], careers guidance is deeply embedded in compulsory education, with each canton having a career centre staffed by highly trained advisers who understand the local labour market. This complements business involvement in open and collaborative governance of skills providers – where employers are rooted in a shared social mission and are deeply committed to investing in vocational education. Switzerland also uses WorldSkills competitions to reinforce the quality and esteem of technical options and raise standards in the delivery of skills.

4.3            The Austrian system provides the opportunity for pupils to follow a predominantly vocational route from age 14, with 70% secondary students opting for the dual apprenticeship route over continuing school[10].  Austrian technical and vocational education provides more teaching hours than in many other countries and promotes collaboration to diffuse expertise across the skills eco-system through the ‘Ausbildungsverbund’ (training network) approach[11]. This helps sustain its high-quality and prestigious character and attraction of young people.

5.0                Conclusion   

5.1            This submission highlights the importance of innovative and inspiring careers information, advice and guidance, informed by the latest employer demand for skills. This is key to empowering all 11-16 year olds to develop those digital and green skills in demand from a range of employment sectors, aiding their progression into good quality post-16 education and employment options with long-term sustainable career paths. WorldSkills UK’s skills development and careers advocacy programmes, delivered in partnership with educators and employers, are aimed at improving the attractiveness of technical education and apprenticeships by raising standards and showing that high-quality training can be a prestigious route to highly skilled, well-paid jobs. 


28 April 2023



[1] Manufacturing Excellence (2023), WorldSkills UK/Learning & Work Institute

[2] Skills for a net zero economy: insights from employers and young people (2022), WorldSkills UK/Learning & Work Institute

[3] Disconnected: exploring the digital skills gap (2021), WorldSkills UK/Learning & Work Institute

[4] Ibid

[5] Skills for a net zero economy: insights from employers and young people (2022), WorldSkills UK/Learning & Work Institute

[6] Disconnected: exploring the digital skills gap (2021), WorldSkills UK/Learning & Work Institute

[7] Skills for a net zero economy: insights from employers and young people (2022), WorldSkills UK/Learning & Work Institute

[8] Wanted: skills for inward investors, A report by the Skills Taskforce for Global Britain (2022), WorldSkills UK

[9] Switzerland: Institutionalised Innovation (2020), WorldSkills UK, Further Education Trust for Leadership, RSA 

[10] Drivers of technical excellence in the skills economy (2021), WorldSkills UK 

[11] International benchmarking and insights: bringing world-class skills to the UK (2023), WorldSkills UK