vocational excellence

Project 3: Benefits of Developing Vocational Excellence

Study Approach: 

The motivation behind Project 3 on the Benefits of developing vocational excellence, has been to understand the benefits of skills competitions. Phase I was an exploratory study that identified the benefits of skills competitions for individual competitors, FE colleges/HEIs, employers, industry and the wider society. Phase II builds upon the findings of Phase I and focuses on an in-depth examination of the benefits of skills competitions beyond those accruing to WorldSkills competitors themselves.

The study seeks to answer the following main research question:

  • How does the WorldSkills Competition benefit employers, industry and the wider society?

And five sub-questions:

  • How do employers benefit from supporting a WorldSkills competitor?
  • How do industries benefit from skills competitions?
  • How do colleagues at work and educational institutions benefit from association with a WorldSkills competitor?
  • How do skills competitions raise the attractiveness of VET?
  • What are the other benefits that may accrue to competitors’ associates and the wider society? And how are these benefits generated?


Project 3 (Phase II) uses individual semi-structured interviews with competitors and their associates. The associates include competitors’ employers, friends, acquaintances and family members. The competitors will be selected from the Team UK 2013 that competed in the WorldSkills Competition in Leipzig. The entire population of interest is small and consists of 33 competitors who represented the UK in WorldSkills 2013. The study involves individual face-to-face interviews with 12 randomly selected competitors. The interview sample is stratified by gender and medals won. The interviews with competitors are followed up by telephone interviews with two associates of each interviewed competitor.


The interview data are analysed in several stages. The audio-recorded interview data are first transcribed. Using NVivo software, narratives are broken down into the main themes that emerge from the close reading. The NVivo classifications option is used to put together demographic and educational information on each interviewee. The interview texts are systematically categorised in relation to each main theme, and findings are summarised by interviewee and theme. It is important to note that the study relies on self-reporting and the study gathers data from a small number of competitors and their associates. The findings cannot be generalised to the population of WorldSkills UK competitors or to WSC competitors in general.


Dr Susan James, University of Oxford susan.james@education.ox.ac.uk

Dr Maia Chankseliani, University of Oxford maia.chankseliani@education.ox.ac.uk