Posted : 13 days ago by Samuel Taylor

UVAC & WORLDSKILLS UK: A perfect partnership

UVAC & WORLDSKILLS UK: A perfect partnership

For almost a decade UVAC has had a close strategic partnership with World Skills UK (WSUK)World Skills UK (WSUK). Since the early days of WSUK LIVE, the UK’s largest apprenticeships, skills, and careers event, we have had a shared ambition to promote higher technical, professional education and skills delivery and the development of high-quality provision. This has included maintaining a shared and ambitious approach to raising standards in technical education. Rejecting the idea of apprenticeships and vocational education as solely for others’ children or for lower-level jobs, we have jointly advocated for an aspirational, all-age, all level approach that helps individuals from diverse and under-served backgrounds secure high-productivity craft, technical, and professional positions essential to the economy.


As such UVAC has had the pleasure and privilege to consolidate a number of its key programmes with WSUK’s initiatives including sponsorship support, involvement in the Centre of Excellence and its recently developed network for peer-to-peer innovation and by joining a global community of thought leadership, interested in how to embed international best practice to advance technical and professional education. Together, UVAC (through its university membership and published research) and WSUK (though its connectivity across colleges, training providers, and awarding organisations) want to ensure that educators, curriculum leads, ‘pracademics’, managers and senior leaders have insights from global skills systems and world-class practices to equip them with new knowledge and skills.


WSUK is more than just about skills competitions although that remains an important area for expansion into higher education (HE) as competitions have developed in areas of higher-level skills such as Industry 4.0 and industrial robotics and are proven tool for achieving effective recruitment and representation on programmes. Not to consider competitions means that HE providers are not selecting and cultivating learning from a wider talent pool or providing opportunities to achieve stretch in the best and brightest young adults.  Practitioner workforce development is also crucial to achieving the high standards of achievement which allows the UK to compete internationally and achieve ‘gold’. This expectation fits well with UVAC’s strategic and operational involvement in the DfE funded Apprenticeship Workforce Development Programme which looks to capture the very best of practice and support creating thinking and innovation in work-integrated learning.


Additionally, UVAC is a proud main sponsor of WSUK Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Heroes Awards and award sponsor of the Initiative of the Year won by STEM Learning in 2024. Indeed, to fully leverage apprenticeships for social mobility and EDI, we must do more to support individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds to access higher and degree apprenticeships. UVAC suggests integrating apprenticeships into a skills ladder, ensuring apprentices are equipped to progress. We propose all employers commit to an equality pledge to expand apprenticeship opportunities. Additionally, we urge colleges, universities, and training providers to develop new approaches to maximise the impact of higher and degree apprenticeships.


Promoting diversity and inclusion in our learner cohort is crucial. We celebrate and support our EDI champions and practitioners who work diligently to create and identify models of best practice. They creatively disrupt existing practices to ensure effective interventions promote EDI. UVAC fully supports the signing of the EDI pledge  as a way of committing to a strategy and strong intent that technical, vocational and professional education pathways are accessible and inclusive to all.


UVAC’s contribution towards WSUK’s competitor support fund is also a way of demonstrating that commitment. The fund is aimed at breaking down barriers for young people so that people of all backgrounds can access life-changing opportunities by competing on a regional, national, and international stage. We know that we must widen the gate and raise the bar for all, as was highlighted in WSUKs report, ‘Championing difference for a better workforce’, which identified some of the barriers faced by young people from under-represented groups accessing competitor programmes.


Sponsoring and participating in the International Skills Summit 5: Opportunity and Growth allows UVAC the opportunity to share key messages on skills importance to professional occupations and routes into the professions in the public sector (nursing, policing, social worker, allied health roles) and the private sector (digital, IT, engineering, construction, and the built environment, leadership, and management) as well as a chance to explore the analysis of green skills vis-à-vis higher level technical education and skills, including higher and degree apprenticeships. Demonstrating the impact of higher-level technical education and skills, including higher and degree apprenticeships, on social mobility, levelling-up, productivity via use of appropriate metrics and measures linked to HE providers’ Access and Participation Plans (APPs) is also an opportunity that is too good to miss.


Being asked to write blogs, speak at network events, contribute to excellence reports, participate in international knowledge exchange visits and having direct involvement of, and giving support to, WSUK equality, diversity, and inclusion policies is a privilege. WSUK’s mission and vision helps fuel UVAC’s passion for getting recognition for the role of universities in delivering skills solutions, and for showcasing how universities have a critical and proven role to play, working with colleges and other training providers and employers to design new qualifications, new programmes and different modes of engagement. It has led, in my view, to a perfect partnership.



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