The Skills Show 2013

Posted on 9 Sep 2013 by The Manufacturer

Why should manufacturing employers get involved with the UK’s largest vocational careers fair?

Launched in 2012, the Skills Show brought together then National Apprenticeship Awards and National Training Awards and the Worldskills competition to consolidate British recognition of young vocational talent and highlight the qualifications and skills sets aspiring students need in order to pursue careers in diverse disciplines including manufacturing, engineering, construction and hospitality.

Last year the show attracted over 70,000 visitors including school children, teachers and parents, all seeking information and inspiration on how to apply their talents to rewarding vocational careers. In 2013 it hopes in excess of 75,000 visitors will attend from November 14-16.

Manufacturing had a strong presence at the show in its first year, with firms such as BAE Systems and JCB taking spots on the manufacturing pavilion at the centre of an industry zone packed with working equipment and inspiring products.

MBDA at The Skills Show

One manufacturing business that maximised it’s presence at The Skills Show’s 2012 event was MBDA.

As an exhibitor in the Manufacturing feature at The Skills Show, MBDA – the world leader in the manufacture of missiles and missile systems – hosted a range of Spotlight talks to bring its operations to life for interested visitors, as well as staging a ‘Have a Go’ activity, providing young people with the chance  to make electronic circuit boards and fuse testing kits.

Gareth Humphreys MBE, HR Adviser for education and apprenticeships at MBDA, commented on the benefits of getting involved: “Our stand generated high levels of interest from visitors, which has been great for us, as it’s allowed us to engage with young people and inspire the next generation of engineers and manufacturers.

“It’s a great opportunity for them to see what goes on in engineering and manufacturing and they have been able to actually try some of the tasks out for themselves.

“Events like this are really important. If we don’t inspire future talent, the progress of the country is limited, so we really hope The Skills Show continues to expand in the future. It’s fantastic and the value-added experience that it brings to our apprentices is incredibly valuable.”

This year there are plans to make the manufacturing pavilion and surrounding exhibition space even bigger.

Ross Maloney, chief executive at The Skills Show is keen to emphasize the difference a firm can make to its skills profile and future security through exhibiting at the show.

“Working closely with our Premier sponsors, City & Guilds and Edge Foundation, alongside exhibitors and our other partners and sponsors, we have created an impressive, large-scale platform that definitely has a significant impact on young peoples’ lives,” he states.

A survey conducted at the 2012 event backs up Mr Maloney’s claim. Ninety four per cent of young visitors at last year’s event, representing 847 schools and colleges, said that they enjoyed the event and 85% said they would recommend the show to others.

“At The Skills Show, we are working hard to bring skills to life and use them to inspire young people,” continues Maloney.

The Skills Show helps businesses raise their profile with young – even some of the world’s largest firms can be anonymous to children of school age – and certainly the operations and job opportunities within their organisational walls, will be a mystery in many cases.

But well as helping young people and business identify one another as potential employers and employees the Skills Show gives businesses a valuable platform to network with peers and discuss best practice in recruitment and retention of skilled workers.

Furthermore, since the event is supported by the Skills Funding Agency, the European Social Fund the National Careers Service and Semta, employers can gain easy access to information on the financial support and advice available to deliver the skills solutions their business needs. 

An interactive event

The Skills Show is more than simply an exhibition.

Many of the busiest stand at the fair in the past two years have been the diverse and challenging ‘Have a go’ challenges which give visitor the chance to test their natural abilities on real life industry tasks – like participating in a Formula 1 pit stop or designing circuit boards for specific applications.

Furthermore, since the Skills Show plays host to the national heats of the WorldSkills competition, visitors get the opportunity to watch the very best young talent from manufacturing and engineering firms across the UK competition to represent their country in the global ‘skills olympics’.

The next global final of WorldSkills is due to take place in Rio de Janeiro in 2015.

The manufacturing zone at the Skills Show 2012.

“Trying tasks for themselves and seeing the very best young talents in action, matched with focused careers advice all helps to build a clearer picture of a career path for our young visitors,” says Maloney, also commenting that the event helps to build profile and image around the vocational skills which have such an important role to play in the future success of the UK economy.

The image problem around vocational qualifications, which still suffer from being seen as second best to pure academic routes to employment, is given a big helping hand at The Skills Show thanks to the patronage of Dragon’s Den star Theo Paphtis.

“I am passionate about improving skills levels across the UK,” says Mr Paphitis, “not least because our economy needs a skilled workforce to ensure we can be competitive and continue to develop and expand.

“Business needs to attract the very best talent in order to succeed, and The Skills Show is a great way for organisations to showcase the opportunities which are available to young people as they enter the world of work.”

Don’t miss out!

Opportunities to exhibit or provide an experience at the 2013 show are now closed. But bookings are already being taken for the 2014 event – which will once again be held at the Birmingham NEC.

Companies interesting in taking exhibition space at the the Skills Show 2014 should contact [email protected] to find out about costs.

Other information about the event can be found at

Free tickets are now available for those interested in attending the 2013 event:  please register at