Nick Blakeney, Managing Director at GE Aviation Wales, is a longstanding champion of developing talent through apprenticeship programmes; a commitment that he pushes forward at GE Aviation Wales.
Passionate about helping young individuals to achieve their personal and professional goals, Nick explains how GE Aviation Wales is nurturing and supporting them by encouraging their talented employees to compete in the world’s largest skills competition – WorldSkills.
WorldSkills is designed to celebrate the achievements of young people across a variety of vocational skills and hosts competition-led training, assessment and benchmarking against other countries around the world.
In Wales, competitions start at a local and regional level through the Inspiring Skills Excellence in Wales project, with a select number of competitors progressing through to the UK national level before a final cohort of competitors are selected to compete for Team UK at the WorldSkills International finals. Nick Blakeney explains:
Our first experience of WorldSkills was in 2019 when we had three apprentices make it to the UK final. Since then, we’ve been working closely with our further education partner, Coleg y Cymoedd, and are thrilled to announce that another team of three are committed to this year’s UK competition in the Manufacturing Team Challenge.
The Manufacturing Team Challenge category allows the apprentices who enter to focus on developing their abilities in several skillsets including aircraft maintenance, welding and mechanical engineering; skills they bring right back into the workplace.
We also have one current employee – Mike Jones – and one past employee – George Denman – who have both succeeded in winning a place in this year’s international finals. Mike and George were part of the original team back in 2019, and if all goes ahead, they will be able to demonstrate their excellence and skills against other nations to bring home gold for Team UK.
We’re incredibly proud of Mike and George. They’re fantastic representatives for GE Aviation, not only in Wales, but for the rest of our teams across the world. Both of them embody all the qualities employers look for in a talented and hardworking employee.
Taking part in skills competitions such as WorldSkills has been a great way to boost our profile and has allowed us to put a real face and a human connection to the business; something that really resonates with our customers, particularly post-COVID when customer-business relationships are so crucial. Customers want to see and work with the best. They also want to develop relationships with partner companies that are committed to investing in people and developing talent for the future, and WorldSkills offers employers exactly that.
Throughout the competitions, our apprentices work on a variety of technical skills and are given the opportunity to learn from several talented and knowledgeable leaders, teachers and coaches in their sector-specific fields.
As an employer, we’ve also found that the additional skills the competitors absorb along the way are vitally important. Teamwork, time management, communication, expectation management and self-reflection are all fundamental skills that employers – no matter their size, scale and sector – should be looking for in their recruitment and talent programmes.
Throughout the competitions, you also get to witness the development of fellow colleagues. Tutors that have participated in the competition return to site with new experiences and ways of thinking and working; all of which are hugely valuable to their own teams and the wider business.
I’d encourage any employer considering Skills Competition Wales, the Inspiring Skills Excellence in Wales project or WorldSkills UK to grab the opportunity with both hands. It’s a fantastic way of developing and growing talent as well as giving young people – particularly those in apprenticeship or talent programmes – space to grow both as an employee and as individuals.