The finest skilled young people from the UK fly to Abu Dhabi today (11 October) in their bid to be the best in the world, with the praise of the Prime Minister ringing in their ears.

Having battled through regional heats, a national final, a Team UK selection process and months of intensive training, 34 skilled young apprentices (or former apprentices) are heading for the ‘Skills Olympics’ – the 44th WorldSkills Finals.

Dan Martins, a Briggs and Forrester apprentice, will be representing the UK for plumbing and heating.

In a message sent to Team UK, Prime Minister Theresa May said: “I’d like to wish the best of luck to our talented team of apprentices taking part in this year’s WorldSkills competition in Abu Dhabi, and congratulations on making it this far.

“Your achievements set a great example for other young people looking to carve out a vocational career, and demonstrate how important practical skills are in the workforce.”

At the last WorldSkills Finals in 2015, held in Sao Paulo, Team UK finished 7th above favourites France and Germany.

This year’s competition is seen as a litmus test for the nation’s ability to cope when the free movement of skilled labour is withdrawn in 2019.

Speaking at a ministerial send-off at the House of Commons, Dr Neil Bentley, CEO of WorldSkills UK, said: “This is just like the Olympic Games, competing teams from numerous nations with gold, silver and bronze medals up for grabs – and World-class standards about to be set.

“Team UK achieved its best ever result in 2015 – and that level of performance is what we are aspiring to. The heat of competition will be as fierce as the heat of the desert – but we are ready.”