Can skills competitions help to raise the attractiveness of VET

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Transcript Can skills competitions help to raise the attractiveness of VET

Can skills competitions help to raise
the attractiveness of VET?
Dr Susan James
Dr Maia Chankseliani
academic divide
% of vocational students of the total at
upper secondary
United Kingdom
EU 27
Macedonia, the
Czech Republic
International participation rates in
vocational programmes
Source: own calculations based on European Commission (2011) data
% of respondents who would recommend VETover
general education/HE
Relative esteem internationally of VET
in relation to general education
Source: own calculations based on European Commission (2011) data, Guthrie et al (2012)
What is attractiveness of VET?
Watters (2009): Status, image, relevance and
Lasonen & Gordon (2009): Attractiveness is
observed as preferences, attitudes and related
behaviour of individuals and groups
Winch (2013): ‘Attractiveness’ in relation to
TVET means the preferability of TVET
compared with alternatives
Policy focus
• The UK aims to become one of the top
countries in the world for jobs, productivity and
skills (Leitch Review, 2006; UKCES, 2009)
• Wolf Review (2011) concluded that UK
vocational education and training system is still
failing many young people
Research background
• Long-standing history of criticism of the UK
vocational education and training (VET) system
• Focus has typically been on a ‘deficit’ model
• Positive stories of VET receive far less attention
• Scarce research on how excellence in vocational
education is developed
‘A youth festival in which competitors would
recognise their role in helping to construct the
future. Individual excellence is recognised in
sports and the arts, and for this reason it was
felt that achievements in vocational education
and training were deserving of the same
(Wilson, 2000, p. 201).
The UK skills competition cycle
Internal Competitions
Regional Heats
National Finals
Team UK
Team UK for WS London 2011
Team UK for WS Leipzig 2013
Developing and Understanding Vocational
Excellence (DUVE) Research
Overarching research questions:
• What are the characteristics of individuals who excel?
What kinds of support enable the development of highlevel vocational skills?
How can vocational education be structured to aim not
just for minimum standards of high achievement but for
high achievement that reflects world class standards?
Can broader societal benefits to developing vocational
excellence be identified?
Developing and Understanding Vocational
Excellence (DUVE) research projects
Project 1. Modelling the characteristics of vocational excellence
Aim: to study the characteristics of young people involved in the WorldSkills UK programme.
Project 2. Learning environments to develop vocational excellence
Aim: to understand what constitutes a learning environment where world-beating
performance can be developed.
Project 3. Benefits of developing vocational excellence
Aim: to examine how and in what way skills competitions provide social and economic
benefits, not only to the individual involved but also to society.
Project 4. FE college participation in WorldSkills
Aim: to establish benefits and costs of involvement in skills competitions for FE colleges.
Project 5. WorldSkills contestants and entrepreneurship
Aim: to illustrate how the acquisition of greater skill and capability might develop
entrepreneurial instinct and ideas and to investigate the sustainability of the activities involved.
Project 6. Training managers: benefits and barriers to WorldSkills UK participation
Aim: to identify the main benefits and barriers facing TMs in order to inform WorldSkills UK
in the recruitment, selection and training of TMs in the future.
Conceptual understanding of benefits for
different stakeholders and wider society
Methodological overview
Method: semi-structured interviews
Sample of semi-structured interviews: 39 competitors and
their 71 associates (employers, family members/friends,
college tutors and training managers)
Skills categories
Auto-body repair
Automotive technology
Beauty therapy
Bricklaying (2)
Cabinet making (2)
Car painting (2)
Carpentry (2)
Confectioner/pastry cook (2)
Cooking (4)
Electrical installations (2)
Graphic design technology
Landscape gardening (2)
Manufacturing team challenge
Mechanical engineering CAD
Mobile robotics
Painting and decorating (2)
Pastry chef/ confectionary
Plumbing and heating (2)
Restaurant service
Stonemasonry (3)
Visual merchandising
Benefits to employers
• Employers received good publicity and higher prestige
• Employers observed enhanced employee performance
• Employers gained satisfaction from showing
commitment to skills development
• Some firms reported improvements in recruitment
• Companies reaped teamwork-related benefits
• Competitors exposed their employers to new
techniques or products
• Some companies attracted more business clients
Benefits to industries
The WSC helped to raise industry profiles:
‘If it raises the profile of the craft, more people understand it and
are keen to get involved in it, that's surely what it's about. It's about
preserving that and keeping it going and hopefully developing it
and the more times that that can happen or the more people that
you take on and employ, it's only helping that side of things.’
The WSC contributed to raising industry standards:
‘There’s up to twenty different countries in one competition, just
on that one subject, so if you’re a landscape gardener, and there’s
twenty different ways to landscape, different ideas… they can bring
this new design back, and spread it between all the different
companies.’ (Competitor, 2007)
Benefits to tutors and colleges
• Involvement in WSC enhanced college reputation
• Standards of teaching and learning are improved
• WSC participation attracted more students
• College involvement in the WSC had a positive
influence on their students
College tutor (CL)/university lecturer
(UL) views on low attractiveness of
‘I worked all over the world in vocational training, in
developing countries and things, and vocational skills in this
country are still seen as second best.’ (CT/Training Manager)
‘In Europe it is not a problem. When you mention vocational
training, it’s not a dirty word. It’s respectable. It’s got a
respectable meaning there. Here, it’s a slightly different
scenario in the UK.’ (UL)
Competitor views on low attractiveness
of VET
‘The construction industry that I'm in they are always looked at as dirty, scum
bags, you know; it's sort of looked at as not a profession, not as where you've
got a bank manager or a doctor.’ (Competitor, 2009)
‘People who work with their hands probably aren’t looked upon as the highest
of the high, you know? The academic route is probably favoured more by
parents, because they think it’s going to earn more money, because they’re
going to do better in life.’ (Competitor, 2009)
‘We never at school got told if you do well in your exams you could get an
apprenticeship. We never ever got told that. It was always if you do well in
your exams you could be a doctor or work in a bank or do this or do that.
You never get told that you can go and do bricklaying or you can be a
plumber.’ (Competitor, 2009)
Employer views on low attractiveness of
It’s a kind of a cultural thing; we’re not very impressed by people who are good at
doing things. So artisans in this country, although they might have studied as long or
longer than somebody who would need to be a doctor, or an architect, they don’t
carry the same kudos and it’s not as impressive, which I think is a real shame, and it’s
definitely a cultural thing. I’ve seen it from both sides. I did an apprenticeship here,
but I’ve become a designer. And I know if I say to people I’m a designer, then that’s
more impressive than saying I’m a furniture maker or I’m a cabinet maker. And it’s
just to do with the way that people perceive how professional you are. I always
remember with [the gold medallist], there was a kind of mention in [a newspaper] and
I don’t actually know what it is they asked [the gold medallist], but the answer to their
question was, ‘the only time I write anything, every week, is when I fill out my time
sheet.’ And there was a kind of backhanded compliment there in terms of, ‘Well
you’re not very academic, so it’s great that you’ve found something you’re good at.’
Which is far from the truth, you know, a lot of the people that we take on have got
very good marks at GCSEs and A levels, and they’re very intelligent, and they’ve just
chosen to follow a non-academic direction. But you do see that kind of negativity a
little bit, in terms of people that are not academically gifted; they need to find
something else that they can be good at.
Can skills competitions make VET
more attractive to young people?
Findings on how competitions may
influence attractiveness of VET
Establishes positive societal image of young people who have choosen a
vocational pathway
Raises awareness of various vocations
Provides inspiring examples of excellence and success in VET
Shows that VET is
associated with
considerable economic
Shows that VET may
lead to a proper career
Makes VET attractive
to females
Positive societal image of young people
who choose a vocational pathway
The WorldSkills competition develops ‘the belief in youngsters
[at a time when] people seem to be losing faith in young
humans’. (Competitor, 2011)
‘There’s so much bad news all the time that actually it would
be really lovely and good for the country to see young talent
shine through. We’ve had all that ASBOs and young kids
having bad names, but then you look at 23 young skills
athletes, doing great things, and making the country better.
That’s what is important.’ (Competitor, 2007)
‘You get respected as a young adult, whereas a lot of people
may think a student just does nothing, and just constantly
drinks, but it’s not true.’ (Competitor, 2011)
Awareness of various professions
‘The competition itself is a great vehicle for the youth to
see what is available to them.’ (TM)
‘They can see what they’re doing, they can see what
standard they're working to. If it’s brickwork, they can see
the kind of work that they can produce. So for people
looking at what career they want, I would say it’d be
fantastic for them to see that.’ (Employer)
‘It gives [school children] a much wider choice of what they
want to do when they leave school. So, I think WorldSkills
is very good in that respect. When we went there, you
could see all the school children walking round being
engaged in and looking at what all these other people were
doing.’ (Competitor's family)
Inspiring examples of excellence and
success in VET
The WorldSkills competition highlights what great skill people have and
it doesn’t always need to be all about sitting behind a desk or being
great on the internet. (Employer)
‘Yes it’s being able to inspire anyone really. And who knows who you’ll
inspire?’ (Competitor, 2011)
[Skills competitions] inspire youngsters to come and follow in the
footsteps. (Competitor, 2005)
‘A lot more people want to do it, because of all the experiences I’ve
told them about, all the opportunities I’ve had, loads of people want
to get involved. And that’s the same at my college, where it basically all
started; I’ve left quite a big, huge impact there.’ (Competitor, 2011)
VET leading to considerable economic
About 60% of the interviewed competitors indicated some economic
benefits related to their participation in the WSC:
‘I'm a lot more financially stable now, which I never have been. But
that comes through doing a lot of different things, climbing the ladder,
which the competition actually helped me to do that.’ (Competitor,
‘Ninety per cent of the people that I speak to want to go out, want to
get an apprenticeship. They don't want to do the university/college
route. They want to go out and learn because they've seen the benefits.
I see the benefits. I'm twenty two. I've got two cars. My own house.
Someone that's gone to college and university doesn't have that. I have
no debts.’ (Competitor, 2011)
Vocational route leading to a
professional career
Skills competitions help establish skills as real professions, not just ‘pretty jobs’:
‘It gives you a real good backbone. Yes, we are professional, we’ve trained very hard,
the techniques we do, only a trained florist can do and you’re treated differently, not
just like a small shop assistant. We are professionals; we do beautiful work that only
florists can make.’ (Competitor, 2007)
The WSC gives a vocational career ‘an appeal, lift[ing] it from being what could be seen as
a mundane job, that you can go to very high levels doing this, it flags that up to
people’ (CT).
By show-casing what can be achieved in vocational professions, skills competitions
demonstrate that the vocational route may be as valuable as the academic one:
‘What he did I think was far more impressive than three years at university frankly.
Because of what the World Skills people did for these young people, to help them to
mature and to cope with stress they'd have never got that at university, never.’
(Competitor's family)
Making VET attractive to females
One of the employers of a female systems engineer argued that her participation
promoted ‘not just the apprenticeships, but women in engineering as well.’
‘Having [the competitor] as a young lady in engineering, which is one of the
areas where we struggle to recruit young women, it is a very male-orientated
subject area, we've certainly seen there are gradually increasing number of
girls applying for our courses. So that could be a positive that comes out of
it, if they're looking at our prospectus and we've got [the competitor] talking
about engineering and how much she enjoyed the course, and working at
[company name], and being involved in the WorldSkills, obviously, that's a
really positive role model for young women to look towards. So that, I would
imagine that has had some sort of positive effect.’ (College Tutor)
Findings on how competitions may influence
attractiveness of VET
Establishes positive societal image of young people who have chosen a
vocational pathway
Raises awareness of various vocations
Provides inspiring examples of excellence and success in VET
Shows that VET is
associated with
considerable economic
Shows that VET may
lead to a proper career
Makes VET attractive
to females
‘The world's best kept secret’: how could the
information on skills competitions reach young
‘If you know about it then you get caught by it. If you don’t know
about it, it just goes over your head.’ (Competitor, 2009)
‘If only the people who don’t know about it could see what we saw,
they’d be totally and utterly amazed. It’s just out of this world.’
(Competitor, 2007)
‘If it was publicised more into schools and colleges, it gets young
people excited, interested in that vocational skill. And I suppose,
eventually that leads onto jobs and things, which I think, in the
current climate, there are lots of people that have either gone to
university or colleges or whatever, that are struggling and can’t
find a job.’ (Competitor, 2005)
Where next?
Developing and Understanding
Vocational Excellence - DuVE
Research team:
• Prof Ken Mayhew, PI
• Dr Susan James, co-PI
• Dr Maia Chankseliani, Research Officer
• Dr Andrea Laczik, Consultant
• Ms Jennifer Allen, Research Officer
• Ms Marta Mordarska, Research Officer
• Prof Petri Nokelainen, Consultant
• Dr Cathy Stasz, Consultant
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Attractiveness of initial vocational education and training in Europe: What really matters, Final report to Cedefop,
PR-362, Cambridge: RAND Europe
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