The plight of school leavers facing up to the bleakest job market since the days of the Wall Street crash of 1929 has thrown into the spotlight the pressing need to ensure young people obtain high-quality vocational training.

A recent Prince’s Trust and University of Sheffield report gave warning that one in five young people who have just collected their GCSEs could be on benefits by the time they are 21. The number of young people claiming Jobseekers Allowance is predicted to double – up to a million – if trends follow those of previous recessions.

City & Guilds is playing an important role in ensuring young people obtain the specialist training so vital in the current job market, helping 2 million workers obtain vocational qualifications every year.

As part of City & Guilds’s work to ensure UK plc remains a place of excellence in education and training, the country’s leading vocational education institution is supporting and promoting Team UK at WorldSkills, in Calgary, Canada next week. WorldSkills takes place between 2nd September and 5th September and is the vocational equivalent of the Olympics. Fourteen members of Team UK’s squad of 26 competitors are City & Guilds qualified.

Chris Jones, Director General at City & Guilds, said: “WorldSkills provides a crucial focus on skills and a buzz around vocational education during the competitor selection phase, the five days of competition, and beyond. As a provider of vocational qualifications in 81 countries, we’re proud of all City & Guilds-qualified competitors worldwide. And as the UK’s leading vocational awarding body, we are delighted to sponsor Team UK.”

Charlotte Burford, 19, from Penkridge, who works for Tranquility at Esporta Stafford is gunning for glory in the Beauty Therapy heat. Burford, who is studying towards her Level 3 certificates in Indian Head Massage, Aromatherapy, Fashion and Photographic makeup, says of the competition “It means a lot to represent my country at my skill - there are not a lot of opportunities for people to represent their country for anything other than sport.”

WorldSkills events are held every two years, enabling 51 countries to compete in more than 40 different vocational skills. The competition, which enforces a 25-year-old age limit, enables talented young people from across the globe to demonstrate standards of excellence in their chosen professions. The prestigious event – which will attract an audience of more than 200,000 spectators – will play host to 1,000 competitors, pitting their skills against each other in an arena of over 80,000 square meters of competition space. Judges will officiate a plethora of vocational events ranging from aircraft maintenance to electronics, floristry, joinery and landscape gardening.

“We support and promote skills competitions for good reasons. They create respect for vocational training by showcasing the highest standards of excellence in skills. They provide an amazing confidence boost and a sense of achievement for competitors while helping to develop inspirational role models within all industries,” said Jones.

The work of City & Guilds in producing highly skilled staff is helping young people in the UK avoid becoming part of the ‘wasted generation’, who have fallen into unemployment as a result of the current recession. The number of young people in England not in employment or training rose to 935,000 this August, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. The unemployment rate rose to 16 percent in the first quarter of this year from a relatively stable level of 14 percent since 2001.