Q and A with Lynn Tomkins, UK Operations Director at Semta discussing its contribution to the event and the legacy WorldSkills must achieve.
TM: How did Semta come to be involved with WorldSkills?
LT: In 2008 UK Skills asked Semta to take control of the entry acquisition process for the engineering WorldSkills competitions. At that point there were just 11 competitors representing the UK in these categories. Thanks to a lot of hard work raising awareness and helping companies through the entry process there were 235 applicants for 2011.
TM: How have Semta achieved this?
LT: We have invested a lot in the WorldSkills competition. We have a team dedicated to promoting it and we have worked with key employers in our sectors to gain their support. We have also partnered with organisations like the National Apprenticeship Service and the Skills Funding Agency.
In terms of being present at the competition over the next few day the support of the TEC Trust Fund and of Jacqui Henderson CBE in particular has been invaluable. It is very important for us to be on the ground at this event, promoting our new competition programmes and making ourselves visible to the public.
TM: All the competitors today come from large multinational companies, but the UK would be more accurately represented by SME companies which make up the large majority of its manufacturing base. Would Semta like to encourage more SME to put forward WorldSkills competitors?
LT: Yes. It would be lovely to see more SME companies here. But competing in WorldSkills is a very costly process – particularly in lost labour – most teams here spend month s in some pretty intensive training. SMEs need their employees to be concentrating on the day job.
That said, we would certainly hope to show case some of the impressive SME-based skills in the UK in the future. Perhaps there is a way we can work together with larger companies to open up opportunities to those in their supply chain.
TM: WorldSkills is a brilliant display of vocational skills, but after the event is over, what will Semta do to maintain public interest and the momentum of enthusiasm stirred up for engineering technologies?
LT: Semta is very proud to be a part of WorldSkills – we are particularly proud to have been nominated as a finalist for the Partner of the Year Award for this competition. However, our involvement here is just part of a much wider Apprentice Ambition programme. Only eleven per cent of manufacturing and engineering companies in the UK offer engineering apprenticeships. We must change that. We are focusing on making it easier for SMEs to establish apprenticeship programmes.
TM: Apart from driving entries, how else do Semta support WorldSkills?
LT: One of the most important things for us is the development of new competition categories. The new category we have put forward this year is Environmental Science. We have strong hopes that this will be adopted for the 2013 competition in Leipzig. Baroness Wall of New Barnet and Sue Ferns, head of research at the union Prospects have been close allies in developing this new competition structure. They met with the leader of the Leipzig event recently and he was extremely receptive to the idea, but it will depend on the international response.