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Centre of Excellence from World Skills UK launches at Belfast Met


Published: 23 September 2021

Belfast Met was delighted to host World Skills UK on Thursday 23rd September at the Titanic Quarter campus for the launch of their Centre of Excellence in Northern Ireland. The event included a panel discussion chaired by Belfast Met Principal and Chief Executive, Louise Warde Hunter with Brian Doran, Principal and Chief Executive of Southern Regional College and Dr Neil Bentley-Gockman OBE, Chief Executive, World Skills UK. A number of Belfast Met HND Factual Television/Journalism and Event Management students were also in attendance.

The panel discussion ‘Building a world-class skills economy in Northern Ireland’ included the key stakeholders involved in the programme Dr Neil Bentley-Gockman OBE, Chief Executive, World Skills UK, Heather Cousins, Head of Skills & Education Group, Department for the Economy and David Gallagher and Chief Executive, NCFE, who provided insights into how the Centre of Excellence works and how it fits into the broader skills development agenda in Northern Ireland.

The broadcast includes insights from the FE Colleges’ six principals in Northern Ireland and is being broadcast on Friday 24th September from 11am-12pm. The broadcast can be accessed at:

The Centre of Excellence from WorldSkills UK, will provide a world class skills boost aimed at attracting inward investment and generating economic growth. It is delivered in association with NCFE, the brainchild of Belfast-born Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE, a former Deputy Director General of the CBI.

Unique insights and expertise, gathered during decades of competing against and now collaborating with, world-class skills organisations in countries such as Japan, Russia, South Korea and Taiwan, are to be cascaded to six Northern Ireland Colleges* to bring substantial benefits to learners.

The Colleges are among the leading FE institutions across the UK which have been selected to join the skills revolution by becoming part of WorldSkills UK’s Centre of Excellence.

The hugely popular initiative has been significantly oversubscribed by Colleges the length and breadth of the UK seeking to benefit from it. More than 40,000 young people, from all socio-economic groups, are being armed with world-class skills in the pioneering project.

Those inducted this year are:
  • Blackpool and the Fylde College
  • City of Glasgow College
  • Coleg Cambria
  • Firebrand Training (London)
  • Gower College (Swansea)
  • JTL Training (London)
  • New College Durham**
  • Northern Ireland Consortium (six Colleges)*
  • Oldham College
  • Solihull College and University Centre
  • Waltham Forest College
  • Weston College

The three-year pilot project, which began last September, is already impacting more than 20 educational institutions and nearly 1,000 educators.

The programme will see educators across the province receive exclusive train the trainer sessions and 60 hours intensive Continual Personal Development,

Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE, CEO of WorldSkills UK, who was born and bred in Belfast said: “This is great news for Northern Ireland. In order to deliver the world class skills that employers demand to be internationally competitive, we need to invest in the educators that are training young people for the future.

“The Centre of Excellence is going through the gears. The initiative has proved to be hugely oversubscribed – and we are working tirelessly to help as many young women and men as possible.

“We are mainstreaming excellence in training standards and delivering it directly to tens of thousands of young students and apprentices at their places of learning which is key to boosting the economy by attracting inward investment and creating high quality jobs – and that is what we are delivering for the benefit of all.

“This new phase of the project means that we are now impacting young people the length and breadth of the UK – in all four UK home nations.

“We are uniquely placed to undertake such a project - utilising over 65 years of international benchmarking experience, having mentored and trained thousands of young people to world-class standards, in dozens of technical disciplines and tested in elite international competition.”

Brian Doran, Chief Executive and Principal of Southern Regional College said:
“The six regional Colleges of Further Education are delighted to have been chosen to participate in the WorldSkills UK Centre of Excellence initiative. Through the curriculum HUBs that exists within the FE College network we aim to use this initiative to raise standards in technical education and training at all levels across all Colleges. By tapping into the expertise that already exists within the team of WorldSkills UK high performance coaches and using best practice from across the globe, we are building a more inclusive and higher skilled workforce that can support more young people to achieve high standards and work skills that meet employer needs, especially in growth sectors.

“Northern Ireland Colleges have a long and proud history of competing in WorldSkills UK competitions and currently have 9 participants in the UK squad preparing for the WorldSkills Competition to be held in Shanghai in the summer of 2022. We look forward to building on this success through the new Centre of Excellence initiative, increasing our participation in skills competitions in priority sectors and giving more students the opportunity to enhance their skills while also delivering more world-class outcomes across the UK skills systems.”

The programme covers three strands: train the trainer modules; real time harnessing of international industry best practice through current preparation for WorldSkills Shanghai 2022; and influencing setters of training standards.

The effectiveness of the programme will be tested by measuring impact on learners, educators and institutions in order to continually develop and innovate. This level of insight will help the organisations to develop a programme which will give more young people, irrespective of background, better work and life opportunities and help boost economic productivity.

The WorldSkills UK Centre of Excellence – partnered and funded by educational charity and awarding body NCFE together with key Colleges and training providers – aims to mainstream world-class skills by developing a cadre of world-class technical educators.

The three-year sponsorship deal is the single largest investment ever made by the NCFE Group, which also includes education and healthcare qualification brand, CACHE, end point assessment provider, EPA Plus, e-learning platform, Skills Forward, and peer-to-peer learning specialist, Peer Tutor.

(Pictured above (L-R): Brian Doran, Principal and Chief Executive of Southern Regional College; Heather Cousins, Head of Skills & Education Group, Department of Economy; Belfast Met Principal and Chief Executive Louise Warde Hunter; Dr Neil Bentley-Gockman OBE, Chief Executive, World Skills UK.)

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