Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance

What Contributes to Vocational Excellence? A Pilot Study of the Individual Characteristics of the WorldSkills UK 2011 Squad

WorldSkills UK, housed within the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), partners with industry and education organisations to develop vocational talent through skills competitions. Young people aged 18-22 compete in regional and national skills competitions managed by WorldSkills UK and undergo intensive skills development to build their skills to world-class standard in order to be selected, first as part of the UK squad and then for Team UK. Team UK competes in WorldSkills competitions (WSC). Some members of Team UK also compete in EuroSkills2 as part of their
training.

These competitions provide both a benchmark for high performance and an objective way to assess vocational excellence. They also provide an opportunity to better understand the factors that contribute to the development of vocational skills to a high standard. WorldSkills UK and NAS supported this research project as a first step toward that understanding. The study was carried out in collaboration with WorldSkills UK as it prepared competitors for the 2011 WSC in London. The research approach was adapted from earlier studies of WorldSkills competitors in Finland, which relied on a multidimensional model of vocational excellence comprising three main explanatory factors: natural abilities, intrinsic characteristics such as motivation,and external conditions.

The pilot study, carried out in the run-up to WSC London 2011, included survey data from 76 squad members (57 male, 19 female) who participated in training and competitions to be selected for the WorldSkills UK team that would compete in London. Using statistical methods suited to small sample sizes, the research compared survey results for squad versus team members, male versus female squad members and medal winners versus non-winners at WSC London 2011. Limitations to the research are the reliance on self-report data and small sample sizes that make it more difficult to identify statistically significant effects. The analysis did not yield many significant findings. The most important pattern of results is that motivational factors, an aspect of intrinsic characteristics, are most important for medal winners. Medal winners had the lowest level of drive to compete and had concerns about appearing incompetent to others. Further studies are needed to see if this pattern holds and what the implications might be for WorldSkills UK
training.
The research is continuing into the Team UK squad, who are preparing for WSC Leipzig 2013, and will also include a control group of young people who do not participate in the WorldSkills UK programme.

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