Project 6: Training managers: benefits and barriers to WorldSkills UK participation
Training managers (TMs) prepare competitors to compete in the WorldSkills competition (WSC) for Team UK. Each TM focuses on a specific skill area. This report presents their perspectives on and perceptions of the role. It addresses the following questions:
- What are the key elements of the TM role, as perceived by the TMs?
- What are the main benefits of participation in WorldSkills UK for TMs?
- What are the main barriers and difficulties faced by TMs?
- What are the benefits from and barriers to participation for colleges and employers, as perceived by the TMs?
The findings presented in this report are based on semi-structured interviews held in person with 36 TMs preparing competitors for the WSC 2015 in São Paolo. This represents almost the full cohort of 38 training managers.
The TM role involves a number of different tasks and responsibilities. Training the competitors is, of course, the main focus, as well as attending competitions. In addition, TMs also perform a range of organisational and administrative tasks, liaise with colleges and employers on behalf of competitors, participate in technical conferences as preparation for participation in competitions and organise external training and specialist equipment. The role is unremunerated, although a daily rate of £150 may be applied for in certain circumstances and expenses are reimbursed.
A number of benefits of participation for TMs were identified. These include enhancing and maintaining cutting-edge skills and knowledge through participation in WorldSkills and networking with other professionals in their own and other fields with a shared aim of achieving excellence. Further, TMs are proud of representing their country and their skill and they take pride in accompanying their competitors’ ‘journey’ towards participation in WSC. In addition, the TMs recognised a number of benefits for colleges and employers which included public relations and marketing benefits from their involvement with WorldSkills UK. In addition to this, TMs and competitors bring back their newly-acquired skills and knowledge to their colleges and workplaces.
Alongside the benefits were a number of barriers and difficulties faced by TMs. These were mainly associated with the intense time commitment required by the role and, for self-employed TMs, an associated financial penalty. Balancing work pressures with the pressures of the TM role is a source of tension. In addition, they reported administrative and communication problems with Find a Future and the lack of structured handover arrangements for new TMs. Finally, the TMs feel that their work for WorldSkills is often underappreciated. The TMs also identified barriers to participation by Further Education (FE) colleges and employers. These included a lack of easily accessible information about WorldSkills for colleges and employers, and problems associated with TMs’ absences from college or work to carry out WorldSkills duties.
Overall, the study indicates that the TMs play a central role in the competition work of WorldSkills UK, which is perhaps not always fully acknowledged officially or in the wider context. We make the following recommendations:
- Recommendation 1: Design a comprehensive induction programme for new TMs, ideally including an official handover period from the previous TM.
- Recommendation 2: Further investigate the TM workload and share the schedule for WorldSkills activities in good time so that TMs can negotiate time away from their work with their employers and colleagues, and also on behalf of their competitors.
- Recommendation 3: Ensure expenses incurred by TMs are reimbursed within a reasonable period of time, and ideally within one month.
- Recommendation 4: Enhance the communication and rapport between TMs and the Find a Future administrative staff. A specific contact person at Find a Future for each of the TMs would help with this.
- Recommendation 5: Improve and expand the information on the website, with specific content geared to colleges and employers about WorldSkills. For example, at present there is no information about how FE colleges or employers might become involved or what the benefits of that involvement might be.
Dr Susan James, University of Oxford, email@example.com
Ms Marta Mordarska, University of Oxford, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Stephanie Wilde, University of Oxford, email@example.com
Dr Maia Chankseliani, University of Oxford, firstname.lastname@example.org