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Practical skills need to return to the heart of national life

15 September 2011
Practical skills need to return to the heart of national life

Skills minister John Hayes explains his passion for apprenticeships, craftsmanship and why he is a big fan of WorldSkills London 2011

This October, 1,000 talented young people from more than 55 countries will converge on London to demonstrate their skills in trades ranging from restaurant service, to welding and hairdressing, to cooking.

This 60-year-old international event is hosted in a different country every two years. For the first time in 22 years, the UK is playing host to an event that will draw a crowd of 150,000 visitors across four days. Far more than entertainment, it is part of a national partnership between government and businesses to put the development and celebration of practical skills back at the heart of our national life.

As well as showcasing the best craftspeople from the UK and around the globe, the WorldSkills competition acts as a potent and timely reminder to young people that learning a skill opens up a wealth of career opportunities - including in hospitality.

Stefan Howells is one of the inspirational young people who will represent our country and the hospitality sector this year. The 21-year-old will compete in the confectioner pastry competition category and is NVQ level 2 qualified in all aspects of catering. Stefan has been working at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxfordshire since he was 18 years old.

Adande, Robot Coupe, The Savoy Education Trust, The British Hospitality Association and Springboard UK are already backing the next generation by sponsoring WorldSkills London 2011, either as event sponsors or participating employers. But businesses large and small throughout the country can give themselves - and our young people - a skills boost by investing in a new generation of apprentices.

The Government is investing in the biggest and best apprenticeships programme our country has ever seen: in my first year as Minister for Skills, apprenticeship numbers have grown by more than 114,000 - which is double our original benchmark and the biggest leap ever. By the end of this Parliament we'll have supported some 250,000 more apprenticeships than the previous Government's plans would have delivered. We've raised standards, given training providers more freedom to meet the needs of local businesses and reformed the system so more apprentices can progress to higher levels of achievement - even up to the equivalent of degree level.

There is more to do, not just to promote apprenticeships but to make it easier for more firms to participate in the skills drive that WorldSkills heralds. This autumn we will announce further measures to reduce bureaucracy and provide simpler advice and guidance to enable more hospitality firms of all sizes to say ‘you're hired' to an apprentice.

This Government's strong commitment to practical learning will ensure that more young people than ever can follow Howells' example. Together, we can put your important sector on a sustained course for growth, ensuring it represents the best of British innovation and craftsmanship.

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