Geoff Russell is chief executive of the Skills Funding Agency

Geoff Russell, Chief Executive of the Skills Funding Agency, reflects on the overwhelming success of WorldSkills London 2011, secure in the knowledge that this is just the start of something much bigger ...

There's a saying that seeing is believing. And it's true: you had to see WorldSkills London 2011 to believe it ... acres of skills on a scale which just blew you away.

It was - quite simply - the biggest and best skills event the world has ever seen, with a fitting set of record-breakers and superlatives to match. One thousand young people, from forty-six countries, competing for stardom. It was the first event ever to take over the whole of the ExCeL London venue; with 200,000 visitors it was the biggest single event they have had and required the UK's largest restaurant to be created especially for the occasion. Meanwhile the largest known convoy of iconic London Route Master buses assembled at Excel to take delegates sightseeing around London and the huge influx of visitors gave the Docklands Light Railway its greatest number of passengers ever in one day. And all this time, an international press presence of over 500 journalists relayed the story home to feed an eager global media appetite for skills news.

Big statistics like this amplify the buzz that WorldSkills London 2011 generated and underline how this occasion brought skills into the spotlight like no other event has before. International opinion has already voted WorldSkills London an overwhelming success.

But if seeing is believing, has London's experience of staging and seeing WorldSkills 2011 bolstered our sceptical nation's belief and pride in skills?
I'd like to think so and I'm certain they will have moved up a notch in the collective psyche of the UK. But there is still further to travel.

You will know that changing public perception about the quality and value of vocational learning is an important objective we share among Government, the Agency and the sector. And as you may have heard me say before, in our wider purpose to improve the skills of everyone in the UK it is truly motivating to celebrate those that have proved themselves to be the best.

But sadly, the world runs all too often on a comfort blanket of clichés and stereotypes. Consider the commonly held perception of the word 'vocational' in comparison to the word 'vocation' and it is more than a little telling. The UK perception of a 'vocational skill' can still be lowly compared to that of our international colleagues and competitive rivals. Whereas the perception of a vocation, a calling to an esteemed high level skill such as medicine or a profession such as teaching seems to be perceived very differently.

So if we are to sway public perceptions of skills and break free from our stereotypical fetters we need to harness the momentum and energy generated by WorldSkills London as a lasting legacy. We need to encourage competitiveness and participation by telling an ongoing story of how skills competitions can benefit individuals, employers, apprentices, the Further Education sector, the economy and society.

And so together with the National Apprenticeship Service we intend to create a permanent legacy for skills in the UK by running an annual skills competition that will roll together as much of the competitions and awards landscape as we can. It will culminate in an annual high profile event, bringing together all of the national finals to demonstrate the best in Further Education. It will showcase the tremendous achievements of learners and the impact of skills and learning on individuals, businesses and the economy - to demonstrate how important FE really is.

There will also be an important international dimension, with other countries encouraged to participate alongside the national finals to provide our UK participants with a taste of international competition. I am confident it will attract new entrants to the sector; celebrate the achievements of learners, providers and employers; but - most importantly - will ultimately raise standards in teaching and qualification levels.

At the WorldSkills London closing ceremony, Team UK were awarded five gold, two silver and six bronze medals, making them fifth overall in the medal stakes. What an excellent achievement and inspirational progress from Calgary two years ago. My congratulations go to all the competitors and to everyone involved in organising this incredible event. But the true prize must be the beginning of a new, inspired future for skills excellence to celebrate vocational skills, raise standards and bring tangible benefits to the FE sector as a whole. And let's not forget the very tangible benefit of attracting thousands of school children to come and see experts demonstrate their skill, to have a go themselves and to be able to get on site information, advice and guidance. What better way to explain the benefits of FE to young people?

The new cycle of national competitions has already opened for entries; and I need your help to spread the word. Help us to immortalise the interest and excitement of the event by encouraging teachers, college tutors, employers and individuals to visit before 15 March 2012 to discover more about how they can get involved with skills competitions.
And if seeing really is believing, let the fresh vision brought by WorldSkills London 2011 re-focus our sights on what will be a true legacy for Further Education; the beginning of a new, inspired future for skills excellence in the UK. And of course, we might finally have a means to do more about the reputation of the sector than just complain about it.

Geoff Russell is chief executive of the Skills Funding Agency, a partner organisation of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

Read other FE News articles by Geoff Russell:

Deliver your words not by number but by weight...

New term, new notebooks, new pencils ...and some old challenges

Game, Set, Match

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter 2 hours 8 minutes ago

RT @EdTech_Summit: Experts including @DavidRussellETF @vikkiliogier @teresaetfound & Janet Clark from the Education and Training Foundation…
View Original Tweet

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page