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30 November 2021

Skills vital for economic development, says new report

The UK report examined the skills systems of seven countries and found important similarities, despite differences in approach.

What unites countries as diverse as Austria, Brazil, France, India, Hungary, Japan, and Korea?

The answer, according to new research, is that all believe world-class technical skills and skills systems are vital to the success of their economies.

The report, Drivers of technical excellence in the skills economy, has been prepared by the UK-based Centre on Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance (SKOPE) and the Edge Foundation for WorldSkills UK.

It examined the skills systems of seven countries and found clear similarities in all, despite differences in approach. The report also concludes that successful skills economies depend on partnerships with industry and employment to embed a culture of excellence at all levels.

Convincing young people to make vocational skills part of their future can sometimes seem a competition with more academic routes, as well as a struggle to demonstrate relevance to the fast-changing needs of industry and the economy.

But, the report says, setting high standards and engaging with employers can do much to dispel outdated beliefs about vocational education and training.

In this area, WorldSkills has a key role to play, the report concludes, by offering a “third space” away from the constraints of the classroom or workplace, and offering both students and teachers a chance to experiment and innovate.

This also allows new ways of training to emerge and to become a measure of improved global training standards.

One example highlighted in the report is India, which has developed short courses designed to respond to short-term labour needs, while also creating pathways for the more advanced technical requirements of engineering and IT industries.

Both Austria and Hungary are using project-based learning to drive excellence, while Japan’s Kosen Colleges of Technology is tackling the issue of low prestige in TVET by requiring all its teachers to first complete a PhD.

In the UK the findings of the report will underpin the work of a new Centre of Excellence to raise standards in the country’s skill systems.

SKOPE, one of the authors, is an educational research centre based at Oxford University, while the Edge Foundation is an independent London-based non-profit organisation dedicated help young people achieve their potential.

Dr Susan James Relly, co-author of the report and director of SKOPE, said: “Building a truly world-class skills economy takes financial investment over time. There are no quick fixes. We found successful skills economies are rooted in their networked skills systems – not just looking at one particular area.“

Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann, chief executive of WorldSkills UK’s chief executive, said the report showed “the most successful systems keep a laser focus on employer needs to address challenges such as technology and climate change.”

More information is available on the WorldSkills UK website.