On Wednesday night The Skills Show officially launched for the first time.
The show brings together all national level competitions in the WorldSkillsUK contest as well as the National Apprenticeship Awards and the National Training Awards. TM talks to Ross Maloney, CEO of the new skills extravaganza.
TM: Why was it decided to launch The Skills Show this year?
RM: Looking back to last year, when London played host the WorldSkills competition we realised that there was great potential to leverage the legacy of that hugely successful event.
We wanted to maintain that excitement about the entire landscape of vocational skills and to continue the momentum it created. We know that there needs to be continuity in messaging about vocational skills and the careers they can open up.
At WorldSkills we proved the success of experiential learning as part of a new approach to careers guidance. At The Skills Show we have built on that success with more ‘Have a Go’ areas backed up with independent careers advice.
TM: How will you measure whether the show is successful in promoting vocational skills and training routes?
RM: We have a target to get 100,000 young people to visit the show over its three days this year. We also take surveys of all stakeholders; employers, teachers, parents and young people before and after the show.
These give an indication of whether we manage to change aspirations and preconceptions. But most of our research is qualitative and it is difficult to say definitively whether a young person’s subject or career choices are a direct result of the show.
We have to take a long term approach.
TM: Parents are key influencers in the career decisions of young people. Is there a focussed strategy for how The Skills Show will engage with parents to promote vocational training as the preferred entry route into certain careers?
RS: On Saturday we will hold a families day at The Skills Show here at the Birmingham NEC. This will allow parents to participate in the activities and presentations and talk to employers for themselves.
Research shows that around eighty per cent of parents feel they are not equipped to give careers advice to their children. We need to educate them so that they can advise with greater confidence.
For parents in the local area, within a certain radius of the NEC, we have done direct e-mail campaigns to encourage them to come along with their children.
TM: The Skills Show is a National Apprenticeship Service initiative and it consolidates several of its existing activities. Is this the start of a broader movement to consolidate a crowded market for skills-led events?
RM: We hope so.
The Skills Show is unique in the way it represents and promotes the entire vocational skills landscape across sectors. A big part of that is about advocating apprenticeships. But they do not represent the whole picture.
We want The Skills Show to become the pinnacle, a hub where all others in the skills landscape feel they must attend.
The engineering and manufacturing sectors are a very important part of The Skills Show and this year we have supported a special focus on skills in these areas.
With a view to joining-up with other national campaigns which support vocational training for engineering and manufacturing careers, we are already talking with EngineeringUK about possible links between The Skills Show and the Big Bang.
It is important that all the different events and campaigns to promote vocational training and career paths are aligned and do not dilute or confuse the message to our audience of employers, educators and young people.