Derek Cockfield from WorldSkills UK explains why role models are so important in engaging young people, from all backgrounds, in apprenticeships and technical training and why this month WorldSkills UK is celebrating those making a difference across FE and apprenticeships.
Shining a spotlight on apprentices up and down the country, this month’s National Apprenticeship Week was a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the success stories of apprentices and the impact they are making on businesses and their local communities. Yet, the week also served as a stark reminder that we still have a long way to go to ensure these training routes are seen as accessible by all.
Research published late last year by The Sutton Trust showed that the fall in the number of overall starts in apprenticeships has been much greater in highly deprived areas. The findings also confirmed that those from ethnic minority backgrounds are under-represented across all apprenticeship starts, particularly so for younger apprentices.
At WorldSkills UK, we are acutely aware of the barriers that can prevent young people engaging with training programmes. Our own diagnostic research with The Social Innovation Partnership clearly spelt out that we could do more to engage and support learners and apprentices from all backgrounds in our competition-based training programmes.
Importance of Role Models
One of the most significant findings, was the importance of role models in engaging young people, not only in our programmes but across FE and apprenticeships more widely. The importance of this was highlighted in two main ways in the research: from those who had experienced it and found it a powerful motivator; and those who did not, and strongly felt a lack of role models.
As the most accessible senior figure in an apprentice or learner’s professional life, tutors, trainers and employers also play an important part in modelling success for their young people. Our research confirmed that 94% of tutors and apprentice trainers see themselves as role models to some or all of their students.
We have certainly seen first-hand the importance of role models in our competition-based training programmes, with young people often motivated to register if their tutor or trainer had previously entered. This was certainly true of Abigail Stansfield, who represented the UK in CNC Milling at the WorldSkills Special Edition 2022. An apprentice with BAE Systems, she entered after seeing how WorldSkills UK had benefited previous apprentices at the company, including Rachael Carr, who had competed as part of Team UK at WorldSkills London 2011. Rachel is now a Systems Engineer with BAE Systems.
In addition to prioritising role modelling within our own programmes to engage a wider range of young people, we also had ambitions to celebrate those making a difference across FE and apprenticeships. Only by working together, can we increase the diversity in the pool of young people who are better prepared for success, ensuring a pipeline of high-skilled future talent for employers to recruit from.
WorldSkills UK Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Heroes Awards
Now in its third year, the WorldSkills UK Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Heroes Awards are going from strength to strength. The awards recognise those role models who are promoting and supporting diverse and inclusive practises in the technical education sector.
This year’s awards, which are run in partnership with the Skills and Education Group, have seen the highest number of entries across all categories. This demonstrates the importance the sector is placing on addressing inclusion and diversity and celebrating role models.
Award wining journalist, broadcaster and presenter Marverine Cole has recognised the huge difference that the finalists are making to young people’s lives, commentating “it’s extremely encouraging to see the excellent work going on in the skills sector. All those nominated and shortlisted are beacons of good practice from which I hope others within, and beyond, the sector will draw inspiration.” I hope as many of you as possible can join Marverine and WorldSkills UK to celebrate the finalists and winners on 23 February at 4pm.
You can’t be what you can’t see
I was struck by the words of Haider Ali, a Management Accountancy apprentice at Rolls-Royce PLC, and previous winner in our Diversity and Inclusion Heroes Awards. He said: “I think it is really important that young people have access to role models, so they know whatever space they want to enter, there is room for them.” That, in a nutshell, is why role modelling is so important – you can’t be what you can’t see. And that’s why we want to share and celebrate the brilliant role models both in the WorldSkills UK alumni network and across the FE sector to inspire more young people, from all backgrounds, to consider apprenticeships and technical education as a route to success.
Register for free access to the WorldSkills UK Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Heroes Virtual Awards Ceremony on 23 February at 4 pm
The Importance of Role Models in FE and Apprenticeships was published on FE News by WorldSkills UK