Recognizing and Developing Vocational Excellence Through Skills Competitions

  • Susan James Relly
  • Ewart KeepEmail author
Reference work entry


Vocational excellence is not easy to define, not least because of differing country contexts, expectations, and norms. Yet, excellence in vocational education and training abounds. One such example is skills competitions. These provide both a benchmark for high performance and an objective way to assess vocational excellence, and where they are international, they also allow cross-country assessments against commonly agreed standards. International skills competitions, specifically WorldSkills Competitions, are the focus of this chapter with the aim of illuminating what vocational excellence is. Drawing on research on WorldSkills Competitions allows an opportunity to understand better the factors that contribute to the development of vocational skills to a high standard, while focusing on understanding the knowledge and skills development of the competitors, and the people involved in this development, allows us to begin to understand better how vocational excellence can be achieved and recognized.


Vocational excellence Skills competitions Vocational education and training Standards 


  1. Allen J, James S, Mayhew K (2015) Further education college participation in WorldSkills and other skills competitions. A report of the DUVE suite of projects. SKOPE, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  2. Berry-Lound D, Rowe V, Willis D, Windmill B (2017) Review of research and evaluation into the impact of competitions on development of excellence in vocational learning and apprenticeships. Final report to the National Apprenticeship Service and the Skills Funding Agency. HOST Policy Research, HorshamGoogle Scholar
  3. Billett S (1999) Guided learning at work. In: Boud D, Garrick J (eds) Understanding learning at work. Routledge, London, pp 151–164Google Scholar
  4. Brockmann M, Clarke L, Winch C (2011) Knowledge, skills and competence in the European labour market. Taylor & Francis, HobokenCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bronfenbrenner U (1979) The ecology of human development: experiments by nature and design. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  6. Bruges Communique (2010) Supporting vocational education and training in Europe. Publications Office of the European Union, LuxembourgGoogle Scholar
  7. Burnsed V, Sochinski J (1983) Research on competitions. Music Educ J 70:25–27. Scholar
  8. Chankseliani M, James Relly S, Mayhew K (2015a) Benefits of developing vocational excellence. A report to the National Apprenticeship Service of Project 3 (Phase II) of the DUVE suite of projects. SKOPE, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  9. Chankseliani M, James S, Mayhew K (2015b) WorldSkills competitors and entrepreneurship: a report to the Skills Funding Agency. SKOPE, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  10. Chankseliani M, James Relly S, Laczik A (2016) Overcoming vocational prejudice: how can skills competitions improve the attractiveness of vocational education and training in the UK? Br Educ Res J 42:582–599. Scholar
  11. Cormack G, Munro I, Vasiga T, Kemkes G (2006) Structure, scoring and purpose of computing competitions. Inform Educ 5:15–36Google Scholar
  12. Doubleday C (2016) Toyota and WorldSkills UK: a case study. Unpublished report, WorldSkills UK, LondonGoogle Scholar
  13. Educluster Finland (2013) Finland among the best countries in World Skills Competitions 2013! Finland.
  14. Gagné F (2004) Transforming gifts into talents: the DMGT as a developmental theory. High Abil Stud 15:119–147. Scholar
  15. Gagné F (2010) Motivation within the DMGT 2.0 framework. High Abil Stud 21:81–99. Scholar
  16. Gardner H (1983) Frames of mind. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  17. Gardner H (1999) Intelligence reframed: multiple intelligences for the 21st century. Basic Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  18. James S, Holmes C (2013) Developing vocational excellence: learning environments within work environments. SKOPE research paper no 112. SKOPE, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  19. James Relly S (2016) Developing and understanding vocational excellence: final report of the DuVE suite of projects. SKOPE, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  20. Keep E, James S (2011) Employer demand for apprenticeships. In: Dolphin T, Lanning T (eds) Rethinking apprenticeships. Institute for Public Policy Research IPPR, London, pp 55–65Google Scholar
  21. Keep E, Mayhew K (1988) The assessment: education, training, and economic performance. Oxf Rev Econ Policy 4:1–1. Scholar
  22. Lave J, Wenger E (1991) Situated learning: legitimate peripheral participation. Learning in doing: social, cognitive and computational perspectives. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Maclean R, Wilson D (2009) International handbook of education for the changing world of work. Springer, DordrechtCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mayhew K, James S, Stevens J (2009) UK skills: learning environments. An unpublished report for UK SkillsGoogle Scholar
  25. Messenger S, Anderson C, Garratt H, Shackleton J (2011) Global standards: bridging the skills gap. North Warwickshire and Hinckley College, NuneatonGoogle Scholar
  26. Messenger S, Shackleton J, Shackleton E (2017) Setting a benchmark for excellence: a case study of a Chinese and UK Collaboration based on the WorldSkills International Standards Model. In: Little S, Go F, Poon TC (eds) Global innovation and entrepreneurship. Palgrave Macmillan, ChamGoogle Scholar
  27. Nokelainen P, Ruohotie P (2002) Modeling student’s motivational profile for learning in vocational higher education. In: Niemi H, Ruohotie P (eds) Theoretical understandings for learning in the virtual university. RCVE, Hämeenlinna, pp 177–206Google Scholar
  28. Nokelainen P, Ruohotie P (2009, April) Characteristics that typify successful Finnish World Skills Competition participants. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego. Retrieved from
  29. Nokelainen P, Stasz C (2016) What contributes to vocational excellence? A study of the characteristics of WorldSkills UK participants for WorldSkills Sao Paulo 2015. A report of the DUVE suite of projects. SKOPE, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  30. Nokelainen P, Ruohotie P, Korpelainen K (2008, September) Modeling of Vocational Excellence (MoVE) – a case study of Finnish World Skills Competition participants. Paper presented at the European conference on educational research, Gothenburg. Retrieved from
  31. Nokelainen P, Smith H, Rahimi M, Stasz C, James S (2012) What contributes to vocational excellence? Characteristics and experiences of competitors and experts in World Skills London 2011. WorldSkills Foundation, Madrid, pp 5–6Google Scholar
  32. Nokelainen P, Stasz C, James S (2013a) Understanding and developing vocational excellence. A study of the WorldSkills UK squad 2013. A report of the DUVE suite of projects. SKOPE, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  33. Nokelainen P, Stasz C, James S (2013b) What contributes to vocational excellence? A pilot study of the individual characteristics of the WorldSkills UK 2011 squad, SKOPE research paper no. 118. SKOPE, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  34. OECD (2015) OECD reviews of vocational education and training: key messages and country summaries. OECD, ParisGoogle Scholar
  35. Sadler P, Coyle H, Schwartz M (2000) Engineering competitions in the middle school classroom: key elements in developing effective design challenges. J Learn Sci 9:299–327. Scholar
  36. Sirianni V, Lee K, LeFevre M et al (2003) Assessing the impact of the concrete canoe and steel bridge competitions on civil engineering technology students’. In: American Society for Engineering Education annual conference & expositionGoogle Scholar
  37. Smith H, Rahimi M (2011) MoVE Australia report. Paper presented at MoVE roundtable discussion on 09.06.11, RMIT University. Available on request from Scholar
  38. Verhoeff T (1997) The role of competitions in education. In: Future world: educating for the 21st century, a conference and exhibition at IOI 97Google Scholar
  39. Wang X, Yang B (2003) Why competition may discourage students from learning? A behavioral economic analysis. Educ Econ 11:117–128. Scholar
  40. Wenger E (1998) Communities of practice: learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wilde S, James S, Mayhew K (2015) Training managers: benefits from and barriers to WorldSkills UK participation. Oxford University Consulting, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  42. Wilson J (2000) Citius. Altius. Fortius. Peritius: the Skill Olympics and skill competitions. Ind Commer Train 32:201–208. Scholar
  43. WorldSkills UK (2014) About us [Online]. Available from
  44. WSI (2010) World Skills International history 1950–2010, p 34Google Scholar
  45. WSI (2017) WorldSkills standards specifications [Online]. Available from Accessed 05/09/2017
  46. Zimmerman BJ (1998) Developing self-fulfilling cycles of academic regulation: an analysis of exemplary instructional models. In: Schunk DH, Zimmerman BJ (eds) Self-regulated learning: from teaching to self-reflective practice. Guilford, New York, pp 1–19Google Scholar
  47. Zimmerman BJ (2000) Attaining self-regulation. A social cognitive perspective. In: Boekaerts M, Pintrich PR, Zeidner M (eds) Handbook of self-regulation. Academic, San Diego, pp 13–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Zimmerman BJ (2006) Development and adaptation of expertise: the role of self-regulatory processes and beliefs. In: Ericsson KA, Charness N, Feltovich PJ, Hoffman RR (eds) The Cambridge handbook of expertise and expert performance. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 705–722CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of OxfordOxfordUK

Section editors and affiliations

  • Kirby Barrick
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Agricultural Education and CommunicationUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations