We hope you enjoyed Robin Shreeve’s commentary on the WorldSkills competition from London.
In 2012, Skills Australia will use this blog when appropriate throughout the year to share insight on our work and activities. This space will supplement our social media pages and the published documents available on our website. To read more about the advice Skills Australia provides to Government, please visit www.skillsaustralia.gov.au.
I am sitting in my office back in Sydney on a beautifully sunny Monday morning. Phil Cox the Director of the TAFE NSW Hunter Institute and TAFE NSW WorldSkills Champion has sent me an email that tells me:
“Great news from WorldSkills 2011 International completion in London. Australia has won a total count of eight (8) medals.
One (1) Gold
Four (4) Silver
Three (3) Bronze
Gold to Ben Houghton from Western Institute in Electrical Installation
Silver to Guy Brooks from Illawarra Institute in Welding
Silver to Kate Crocker from North Sydney Institute in Restaurant Service
Silver to Kye Szenaik from South Western Sydney Institute in Car Painting
Silver to Liam Janetski from Queensland in Refrigeration and Air Conditioning
Bronze to Lester Tibbles from Western Institute in Bricklaying
Bronze to Alexis Scott from Western Australia in Hairdressing
Bronze to Australian Manufacturing Team Challenge…..the Team included Micheal Theobald from Western Institute ( the other two team members were from Vic and SA)
(Special mention needs to go to Western (NSW) Institute which had three (3) competitors in the Australian Team and are bring home three (3) medals including Gold…..well done.)
So congratulations to the Skillaroos – Australia in a year of more intense competition is still ranked in the top ten of WorldSkills nations. The UK hosts will be delighted in winning 4 Gold, 2 Silver and 6 Bronze but not as delighted as the Koreans with an amazing 13 Gold Medals. But for a country of our size we have done well.
The Skillaroos, their mentors and their supporters all deserve our praise.
I got up this Friday morning to follow my now familiar journey to the 2011 WorldSkills Competition at London’s ExCel Centre. This begins with a ten minute walk from my hotel to Romford Station, then a twenty minute train ride to Stratford where I change on to the Docklands Light Railway where a “driver-less” train takes me in around ten minutes to Prince Regent Station right next door to the east entrance of ExCel.
My day is a mixture of attending policy seminars and slipping out to see the competitors in action. Today I attended meetings on the European Qualifications Framework, then a seminar on the British system of trade union learning representatives and finally to a seminar run by Ashley Langdon of MEGT on group training schemes. I certainly admire colleagues trying to develop cross national qualification standards in the highly complex world of the European Union (EU). The two British presenters on trade union learning representatives, Tom Wilson and Barry Francis, both knew my colleague Caroline Smith from the days she worked at Britain’s Trade Union Congress. Learning representatives now seem to have been accepted as a positive initiative for work based learning by both sides of industry in Britain. At the seminar on Group Schemes I was able to add some background information on the Australian VET system while James Barron, the CEO of Group Training Australia , and David Windridge, the CEO of MEGT, were also able to add to Ashley Langdon’s interesting presentation on the history of group schemes in Australia and how he is implementing them in the UK.
The venue was again absolutely jam-packed with visitors – mostly school and college students. Tjerk Dusseldorp, the Chair of WorldSkills International, told me the UK Government is delighted with the way the event is promoting the value of apprenticeships. Besides Tjerk I also bumped today into Kay Sharp, Executive Director of the Hunter Valley Training Company and a long time WorldSkills stalwart and the team from SkillsOne who “door-stopped” me for a video interview.
But whilst all this was going on, the Skillaroos were very hard at work in the competitions. They only have one more day to go.
For me this was my last day at the 2011 WorldSkills Competition. I need to be back in Sydney on Monday so I catch a V Australia Airbus at 9:10am tomorrow (Saturday) from Heathrow. The competition has been a raging success for the promotion of skills and vocational learning. Great credit must go to WorldSkills International and the WorldSkills London 2011 for the size, quality and sheer ingenuity applied to this event.
I look forward to hearing the competition results having some appreciation of what the competitors experienced. Let us keep everything crossed for luck for all of them.
But for me and WorldSkills London 2011- it is over and out. It has been fantastic.
Today I met up with Skills Australia Board Member Marie Persson (who is in London on a private visit) and Director of the TAFE NSW Hunter Institute Phil Cox to walk the London 2011 WorldSkills Competition Floor. It took us nearly two hours to get around which shows just how big the competition space is. Of course we stopped to admire the work of all the Skillaroos who were concentrating hard at this crucial stage of the competition. I noticed signs had gone up asking visitors not to try to talk to or distract the competitors.
Our first part of call was the landscaping competition where we watched the Aussie team doing some “dry stone walling”. This must be hard – especially for our Skillaroos. A lot more dry stone walls are built in Europe than Australia. In places like Brittany in Northern France they have been used since the Middle Ages to divide up fields. But the Aussies were doing a great job.
If yesterday’s competition visitors were dominated by Primary Schools, today was the turn of the Secondaries. There were literally thousands of teenagers present. The queue to get in the exhibition hall was several hundred metres long. It was absolutely not single file rather it was about 10 across. The organisers hope over the four days of competition there will be 150,000 visitors and it would not at all surprise me if at all if this target was vastly exceeded.
Already we can say the WorldSkills London has been a great success. This is a tribute to the organising committee which is chaired by Chris Humphries, the recently retired CEO of the UK Commission on Employment and Skills (UKCES). Chris is a “Sydneysider” and a graduate of the University of NSW. At a reception I was able to introduce Wayne Collier, the CEO of Polytechnic West in Perth, to Chris. Wayne got me to take a picture of him, Chris and Michael Davies – the current head of UKCES.
The other side to the event is the conference and seminar for industry, policy makers and training providers. Today we heard speeches from Vince Cable, the UK Minister for Business Innovation and Skills, and John Hayes, the UK Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning. Dr Cable was very frank. He pointed out in his speech that the UK WorldSkills Team, which he hoped would win many medals, was not that typical of the UK workforce which was by European standards “under skilled”. Whilst the UK did well in the number of university graduates , Dr Cable told us it did less well in the skills area. His government was trying to build a new “technician class” through a massive expansion of apprenticeships. John Hayes made a passionate plea for the importance of practical learning which was too often considered second best to the academic route. He told us he had taken the academic route as he was “not clever enough” to take the practical one unlike his tradesman father.
Tomorrow brings more visits to the competition and also a chance to hear Australian Ashley Langdon of MEGT talk about his experiences in running an Apprentice Group Scheme in both Australia and the UK.
The WorldSkills competition began in earnest today in the vast ExCel exhibition arena – London’s version of Sydney’s Darling Harbour or Melbourne’s “Geoff’s Shed”. Apparently it is one kilometre from the East to West entrances at ExCel and I have acquired some blisters pacing up and down watching the various skills competitions.
The landscaping competition, which is taking place inside , was quiet spectacular. The landscaping competitors come in all shapes and sizes – two strapping Aussie blokes were next to two girls from Finland. I have to say I admire the competitors ability to concentrate. There were vast numbers of spectators present today – including lots of school groups, many of whom were primary schools. Quiet rightly the organisers are using the event as a giant Careers Exhibition and what better way to promote these vocations. But having a party of twenty-five exuberant school students standing near you when you are trying to mix a cocktail or cable-up a CNC machine must be a bit distracting. The home team seemed the most exposed – as they often appeared to be in the most prominent positions.
I managed to walk around and see most of the competitions with an Australian participant – from beauty therapy to welding. Good luck to our Skillaroos; their first day of competition is over.
I also participated in a seminar today on Quality Work experience. It was frightening to learn that in the UK you could fill every Premier League Football Ground with young unemployed people and still have 200,000 additional young unemployed young people queuing outside. I know we have issues in Australia but not on that scale.
I also caught up today with David Hughes, the recently appointed head of the English National Institute for Adult and Continuing Education. Adult and informal learning is very important in England covering Foundation Skills and English for Speakers of Other Languages. David has some great ideas.
Well the obvious highlight of my day here was attending the Opening Ceremony – an event packed full of energy, enthusiasm and pride in one’s country.
After a dance performance, a welcome speech from Chris Humphries (Chair of WorldSkills London 2011) and an opening speech from Nick Clegg (the British Deputy Prime Minister) I was ready to leap up to shout my welcome to the Aussie Delegation. I almost had a false start as I had forgotten that Argentina precedes Australia in terms of the order of spelling. Never the less we were able to greet the Australian entry in true style. The UK supporters were well prepared – pinching the idea of the Vuvuzela (which they had mass-produced in national colours) – from the South Africans.
For the ceremony I had been allocated to a box where I was the only Australian. Myself and a Kiwi delegate found ourselves surrounded by supporters from Canada and the United Kingdom. The “Poms” included Stella Mbubaegbu CBE, Principal and CEO of Highbury College Portsmouth, who will be speaking at the Austafe conference in Canberra in a couple of weeks. In the box next door was Professor Barry Wright from the University of Ballarat who was justly pround that the TAFE Division of his University had three of the Australian team members.
Earlier in the day I had an excellent meeting with Michael Davies and Simon Perryman of our sister organisation, the UK Commission on Employment and Skills. This was followed by a meeting with Geoff Russell, the CEO of the English Skills Funding Agency. You have to be careful over here not to think UK and English are interchangeable terms as the Scots and Welsh will quickly point out the UK is made up of four nations including Northern Ireland. They often have separate funding and governance arrangements especially in education and skills. Finally before going to the O2 Conference Centre, where the opening ceremony was held, I was able to catch up over an excellent late lunch with Andy Wilson and colleagues at Westminster Kingsway College.
Let the competition begin!
Today I participated at the International Network of Sector Skills Organisations (INSSO) Conference at the Royal Society of Arts in London. The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (to give the full title) was founded in 1754 and occupies a classic Robert Adam building in the Adelphi area of London. It was a magnificent “Regency” setting for our conference.
The conference was in many ways a “spin-off” from WorldSkills – Tom Bewick, the CEO of INSSO, took advantage of so many international visitors being in London. There was a strong Australian contingent along with delegates from the UK, South Africa, China, India, Vietnam and New Zealand as well as representation from bodies such as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the European Community (EU).
All delegates were keen to promote a “sectoral approach” to skilling – which many interpreted as what we would call “industry led”. Yet whilst we in Australia are concerned with skills shortages in many other countries the issue is a shortage of jobs associated with major crises in their domestic economies.
The Great Skills Debate Session, run along the lines similar to the ABC’s Q and A program, featured Professor Hugh Lauder co-author of, “The Global Auction”. Lauder argues that the rise in the number of graduates from China, India and Russia threatens middle class professional jobs in Europe and the US as multi-national companies shift professional work to countries where graduates can earn less. Not everyone accepted this thesis – as some argued that graduates create their own demand in their own economies so there is not the capacity for the degree of ”off shoring” that Lauder projects.
But all in all an interesting and thought-provoking day
Arriving at Heathrow Terminal 4 it was great to see people holding up “WorldSkills” signs offering assistance to any competitors or supporters who were arriving. I did not need to trouble them as I had my transport to my base at “Romford” planned out.
Amazingly since I arrived here it has reached 28 Degrees Centigrade – a record for October in London. Are these Australian conditions a good omen for the “Skillaroos”?
So where (and what) is “Romford” – well it is an outer eastern suburb of London. Young people from around here are sometimes unnecessarily and somewhat disparagingly called “Essex” Girls and Boys ” by other Londoners after the name of the old County . This is in some ways similar to the way the name “Westie” is used in Sydney. The comparisons with Western Sydney also include the fact that this part of Essex used to be dominated by manufacturing – one of the main Ford car plants is at nearby Dagenham but with changes to the local economy the plant is far smaller than it used to be. Staying in Romford would be like staying in Parramatta if you were going to the Olympics at Homebush. I have a twenty-minute ride by train and the Docklands Light Railway into the WorldSkills location at the EXCEL stadium whereas those staying in Central London have a twenty-minute train ride out of London to EXCEL.
My hotel is quite near Romford Station which is itself near the town centre. The centre and associated shopping mall seems a bustling place with the usual range of high street shops including the ubiquitous Marks and Spencer and the fashion retailer Primark which specialises in fashionable but inexpensive wear for younger people. Buying a tuna baguette and a small orange juice at the Greggs bakery for what seemed a very reasonable GBP2.69 I was advised by the friendly shop assistant that for this special price I was entitled to a larger bottle of drink. My protests that the small bottle was more than adequate were greeted with the observation that next time I should go for the larger bottle! Maybe the economic situation over here is encouraging people to maximise value for money.
Tomorrow I present at the INSSO Conference – INSSO is an international group of Sector Skills Councils founded by the energetic Tom Bewick who was once head of the Creative and Cultural Skills Council in the UK. I knew Tom as the College of which I was once CEO of was part of his National Skills Academy federation for that sector.
Only two sleeps until the WorldSkills Opening Ceremony on Tuesday evening!
On Tuesday afternoon I was fortunate enough to be at the “send off” function for the Skillaroos - or Team Australia for WorldSkills in London. Each team member was presented with a national flag by Commonwealth Government Minister Simon Crean. Also present farewelling the team with some well-chosen words were NSW Minister Adrian Piccoli accompanied by the NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Tertiary Education, Gabrielle Upton. Lots of old colleagues were there including Bob Puffett who to me will always be “Mr WorldSkills’ for his passionate support of the event over many decades. Bob was bursting with pride at the young people who are going to represent our country.
The competitors got some good advice from two medallists – a gold and bronze medal winner from the previous competition. The Team now leave for London – but they stop off in France to get some inspiration from a visit to the “Great War” battle fields where a previous generation of Australians sacrificed so much for their country. As a soldier once wrote of his dead comrades ”..for your tomorrow we gave our today“.
I intend to be on plane to London tomorrow afternoon. I hope the power supply works on the V Australia aeroplane as my lap top has a lot of work to do between Sydney and London.
Robin Shreeve, CEO of Skills Australia, will be in London to support WorldSkills London 2011 and Australia’s National Skills Week. Robin will be sharing his thoughts on the activities and events via this blog.
The WorldSkills International Competition, also known as the Skills Olympics, will be held over four days at the ExCel London exhibition and conference centre in London’s docklands from 5-8 October 2011. The Skillaroos, a team of talented young Australian trades people, will set off for London to showcase Australia’s skills to the world. Nearly 1,000 competitors from over 53 countries/regions will be competing in 46 skill areas.
The team has trained tirelessly for 10 months, refining their skills in preparation to compete against other competitors from around the world in their quest for gold at the 41st WorldSkills International Competition in London.
The Skillaroos will be representing 27 different skill categories such as Restaurant Service, Fashion Technology, Car Painting and Landscape Gardening.
The Skills Olympics in London are being held the same week as Australia’s National Skills Week. Skills Australia is a proud supporter of the Week.
The aim of National Skills Week is to raise the status of practical and vocational learning. This is a new initiative dedicated to give Australian’s a greater understanding of the diversity, the opportunities, the achievements and success stories of Vocational Education and Training.
National Skills Week in 2011 will run from Saturday 1 to Saturday 8 October. It is anticipated to become an annual initiative.