Brian Wisdom, chief executive of sector skills council People 1st, believes the industry should unite to compete successfully in the next WorldSkills competition, which is due to be held in London in 2011.
"In September I was privileged to attend WorldSkills 2009 in Calgary, a biennial competition that promotes excellence and showcases trade, service and technology skills.
The Canadians welcomed representatives from 38 nations and made this event the centrepiece of the city for a week. They treated WorldSkills as the skills equivalent of the Olympic Games, with extravagant opening and closing ceremonies and close attention to detail, service and facilities.
I was highly impressed by the sophisticated skills of the young competitors and the intensity of their concentration in front of the crowds.
In 2011, this fantastic event will be staged in London, but its profile in our industry is below the water line. I fear that we will lose the opportunity to inspire young people to engage in vocational skills.
Four years ago, Caterer highlighted a shortage of funds, lack of wider industry support and insufficient time to prepare as serious obstacles to success in the competition. We have not moved any further forward, although the skills of our young participants clearly have.
Compare this to the Korean team, which is assembled from education and industry for almost two years before the event. Each member receives around £20,000 if the team wins the competition. The Korean medal haul at Calgary was 13 golds, four silvers and nine bronzes. Regrettably, many UK employers refuse to even give competitors time off work to take part, let alone prepare.
I urge those who doubt the value of the experience that young competitors gain to visit www.worldskills.org and view World Skills TV. Those who witnessed the competitions left with an abiding impression that no Cambridge or Harvard graduate would have outwitted these bright young people and that we may have been in the presence of several future political and industry leaders.
WorldSkills is inspirational and we can transform the image of our industry in 2011. There are so many fantastic initiatives now in place (Diplomas in schools, Adopt-a-school, Junior Chefs' Academy, Futurechef, College Restaurant of the Year) that could be united to maximise the benefits for WorldSkills.
We need industry sponsorship and funding to provide a framework and motivation that could leave a legacy for years to come. Surely we can do this together? I call on any interested parties to contact me at People 1st and I promise to do my best to make a difference."