Video transcript - Improving vocational skills training

ESRC logo and series title:
Creating impact through the social sciences

Improving vocational skills training

College campus, sign saying 'Welcome to North Warwickshire and Hinckley College', young people engaged in activities such as flower arranging and cooking.

Dr Susan James, Assistant Director, Centre for Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance (SKOPE), University of Oxford:
My names is Susan James, I'm the Assistant Director of SKOPE in the ESRC-funded research centre based in the Department of Education at Oxford University.

There's been constant criticism of the UK vocational education and training system, about everything that's wrong with it, and we began thinking that that simply can’t be the case - there's got to be some things that are right. And in 2008 we were approached by UK Skills to do some projects looking at vocational excellence.

Eugene Incerti, International Skills Development Team, National Apprenticeship Service:
WorldSkills is a competition for young people that benchmarks 60 nations' skills across them - hair dressing as you see today, to robotics, from bricklaying to confectioner. And it gives you an instant feel about where we are against the other competing economies of the world.

Dr Susan James:
The WorldSkills competition has provided us with the perfect opportunity to try and begin to understand and see if we can help develop vocational excellence. Huge amounts of money are invested in the vocational education and training system, and as the Wolf review showed, there are many many faultlines. What we wanted to do was actually understand what was working, so that we could perhaps stop looking at a deficit model and begin to see if there's anything that can trickle down.

Professor Ken Mayhew, SKOPE Director, University of Oxford:
The WorldSkills competitions are showing real vocational excellence and we're interested in that, because we think that's not only good in its own right, it's an exemplar, it's a demonstration for what vocational education could be and should be about.

Dr Susan James:
We worked out that we needed to look at three different things: we needed to look at the individual who's developing the skills, we needed to look at the work environment where they were developing the skills, and then we also wanted to understand whether there were any externalities or benefits to actually developing these skills and competing in WorldSkills competitions.

What seems to be the case from data that we've collected from the 2011 squad is that those competitors who excel and do really well have a higher level of intrinsic motivation. We are beginning to understand that it's more the practical skills than the innate skills that are more difficult to train - but confidence and motivation can be trained. And this is what we're hoping to be able to feed back to WorldSkills UK and the National Apprenticeship Service, is how to actually train these young people in order to build up their mental capacity to compete on the world stage.

Jade Kidd, beauty therapist
I competed 2007 in Japan. It definitely has given me more self-belief, more confidence. I opened a salon at the age 18, I'm now 25. With the help of WorldSkills and having the world-class standard, obviously it's made my salon tremendously successful so I have done very well out of it.

Eugene Incerti:
We were very keen on trying to profile what makes some people perform excellently in this competition, so it would help us in terms of selection and development of young people. The information coming back from the research was - first of all it's very complicated, it was never easy - but there were certainly some key characteristics in there: emotional maturity, conscientiousness, those sort of behaviours. We've brought that back into some of our selection and development process and that has helped us pick a stronger team for London.

It's using that information now and putting it into the mainstream which is the next step in the process of the research. We've  now worked out how to do it for competition, so how do we get that as the norm into the system? We want to show the whole world that we're successful on those economic drivers, so that it encourages investment into the UK - to say 'look, the UK is absolutely excellent in skills and is a great place to invest'.

Professor Ken Mayhew:
If this research succeeds, then what we hope it will do is persuade influential people - be they those running our schools systems and advising our children, be they policymakers in Whitehall - that there is an important and potentially vibrant way of helping social mobility, of making for a healthier and faster-growing economy; and that's revitalising and strengthening the vocational route, which we think is the most vital route for so many of our young people today.

End credits with ESRC logo:
The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) works with employers to help them introduce apprentices into their businesses.

NAS implement all government policies aimed at improving the quality and quantity of apprenticeships.

Squad UK celebrated their success at EuroSkills 2012 after achieving seven medals.

The achievements are a massive boost for members who will commence a more comprehensive training programme over the next nine months, in preparation for the global skills competition, WorldSkills in 2013.

Over 50,000 students took part in the WorldSkills UK 2012 show, in November.