A research collaboration with the National Apprenticeship Service identified key characteristics for vocational excellence - improving the selection process for the WorldSkills Competition.


  • Based on the research findings, the National Apprenticeship Service included qualities such as confidence and emotional maturity in their selection process, and concentrated on developing these 'intrinsic' traits through training.
  • WorldSkills London was held at ExCel London from the 5-8 October 2011. Team UK came 5th winning five gold, two silver and six bronze medals in skills including cooking, bricklaying, visual merchandising, welding and car painting. Twelve Medallions of Excellence were also awarded in skills ranging from restaurant service, fashion technology, carpentry and floristry.
  • Squad UK also celebrated their success at EuroSkills 2012 after achieving seven medals. The achievements are a massive boost for members who will commence a more comprehensive training programme over the next nine months, in preparation for the global skills competition, WorldSkills in 2013.

"We were very keen on trying to profile what makes some people perform excellently in this competition, so it would help us in terms of selection and development of young people. The research findings fed into some of our selection and development process, and that has helped us pick a stronger team for London." (Eugene Incerti, International Skills Development Team, National Apprenticeship Service)

About the research

The UK aims to be one of the top countries in the world for jobs, productivity and skills, yet a review in 2011 concluded that British vocational education and training systems are still failing many young people.

To see what could be done to change this, researchers from the ESRC-funded Centre on Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance (SKOPE) worked with the National Apprenticeship Service, who run an international skills competition called WorldSkills for young people.

In WorldSkills, young people aged 18-22 from 51 different countries compete in 46 skills, varying from hair dressing, to robotics, and from bricklaying to welding. The contestants undergo an intensive 12-18 months training to develop their skills to world-class standards, as well as preparing their body and mind for the competition.

The researchers, led by Dr Susan James at the Centre for Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance (SKOPE) at the University of Oxford, used the preparations for the London WorldSkills 2011 competition to find out what vocational excellence is, and how we can develop it in young people.

They found that the competitors who excelled at the highest levels had a higher level of intrinsic motivation than those who did less well. There were some key characteristics which the most successful competitors shared, such as emotional maturity and conscientiousness. The researchers concluded that these intrinsic qualities could be trained. WorldSkills UK and the National Apprenticeship Service used these findings to revolutionise the way they selected and trained competitors for the 2011 WorldSkills competition.