WorldSkills UK and developing the next generation of security engineers – “With each competition, a new batch of industry role models are formed”
Ahead of the Security Systems WorldSkills UK 2021, taking place on 23 November, IFSEC Global speaks to Dee Aylett-Smith, Head of National Competitions at WorldSkills UK (WSUK), about the growth of the security competition, the importance of industry diversity, and what it means to those youngsters taking part. WSUK is an independent charity with the aim to take its international best practice into national networks and raise both apprenticeship and technical education standards and awareness. The charity’s focus sectors are driven by industry needs, in collaboration with changing government priorities.
Each year, thousands of students and apprentices take part in the competition across 64 different sectors – from security systems through to plumbing and graphic design. Regional qualifiers, determined by each sector separately but based on apprenticeship standards and designed to focus on core skills valued by employers, eventually culminate in a national finals day for competitors. This year, the organisation is set to represent 64 skill areas in its national competition.
Dee comments: “It’s great to see the registrants come forward, especially on the backdrop of what has been a really challenging year for both industry and education. We are really excited to see so many skill areas represented. “With each competition, a new batch of industry role models are formed.
These individuals go on to encourage young people throughout the UK to think about careers and apprenticeships within the sector.” Dee Aylett-Smith, WorldSkills UK Dee continues: “For WorldSkills UK our primary focus is showcasing the prestige that sits within these opportunities so that people are aware that completing an apprenticeship or a technical education qualification is really the way forward and can provide you with some amazing skills and experience.” Though the competitive aspect of the contest may be the most alluring factor for many, WorldSkills UK is keen to remind applicants of the multifaceted nature of the programme.
Dee argues that: “Regardless of what stage you get to, what is so important is the experience you have gained. “At WorldSkills UK, we know that soft skills are just as important as technical skills. All of our competitions are not simply curriculum based, they are also there to teach young people about the importance of self-development – what does the industry want from me?”
The event allows young people to not only compete, but also to build industry networks that could carry them through to potential careers. Individuals are given the opportunity to build confidence, develop employability skills and perfect their technical abilities. Dee comments: “Aside from the transferable skills, the competition also allows individuals to really think, OK, how can I make myself better, what is it that I should be doing?
It encourages a different approach to learning, that’s what helps shape the competition-based training programme in an innovative way. “As a young person entering into an apprenticeship, to have a unique platform to see how an employer is doing something a little bit differently can be of real benefit, especially as the competitive nature of this type of employment increases.”
Developing the next generation of security engineers
Depending on the sector, WorldSkills UK also works with forward thinking organisations and bodies to gain a greater understanding of where specific gaps in knowledge lie, and how it can aid important industry conversations. Gathering all key players in one remit allows those necessary skills to continue to evolve alongside a specific industry.
For the security systems competition, industry collaboration has enabled the highly-anticipated Engineers of Tomorrow (EoT) competition – usually taking place at IFSEC and FIREX International each year in London – to become part of the overall process. For those in the security competition, EoT winners go on to compete at the WorldSkills UK final – this year taking place at Skills for Security’s HQ in Warrington.
Dee says: “The security sector is really growing and there is now a higher demand for skilled workers, so there’s a lot of opportunities available across a wide range of job roles. There’s everything from electrical and fire to physical security and counterterrorism – opportunities within the sector are extremely vast.” “Much appreciation should also go to those industry bodies, colleges and vendors who support the various competitions as well.
The likes of Hikvision, CSL and Texecom are all supplying kit for the security event delivered by Skills for Security, IFSEC, SSAIB, NSI and CSL for instance. Without support like this from the sectors, the competitions wouldn’t be possible – by doing so they are investing in the future of the industry.” It is also clear the importance that the apprentices themselves place on the competitive elements of such events.
One of this year’s EoT finalists, Jessica Goodson, summed up the importance of apprentices in a recent article with IFSEC Global: ” Competitions like WorldSkills UK and shows like IFSEC are important to spread awareness of the industry, and also allow people to show case what they know. Apprentices are very important as they are the future of the industry, and without them we would not progress.” Despite the obvious strains placed on business’ during the pandemic, the dedication of industries to their future apprentices has remained un-wavered as the volume of applicants and participating sectors for 2021 remained extremely high.
Dee believes that: “Opportunities like this wrap around the apprenticeship experience really well. The recognition and the rewards they get from being seen in their own company really elevates their positioning and often leads to great future opportunities.” A huge part of the charity’s ethos surrounds promoting diversity, and the Engineers of Tomorrow competition is no different.
Having launched its Inclusivity and Excellence Programme last December, WorldSkills UK hopes to encourage more young people, whatever their background, to consider the national competition-based training programme. By working closely with educators and trainers, together, the team believe they can overcome potential barriers young people face and ensure they can succeed in the future within their apprenticeship and technical education programmes. Dee concludes: “We have to think, when we’re going out competing internationally, is our team UK the most representative of our country’s young people?
At a national level, this competition is going to really pave the way to solidifying that positive change going forward. As an organisation we want to be a follower, a leader and an ally.” Find out more about the 2021 Security Systems World Skills UK competition, here.
Stakeholders involved include IFSEC and FIREX International, Skills for Security, SSAIB, NSI, CSL and Texecom Academy, with additional support from the BSIA.
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