Enhance vocational training through competition in skills

Lotego Friends Vocational Training Center mechanic students in Vihiga county assembling car engine at their institution in Vihiga county on September 26, 2019. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

WorldSkills competitions (WSC) are the gold standards of skills excellence. They inspire young competitors to reach new heights, helping them to turn their passion into a profession. The first WorldSkills competition in 1946 in Spain, rose out of the ruins of the Second World War, which devastated the economies of Europe and created a huge skills shortage that threatened a new economic depression.

Some took this challenge as an opportunity to introduce young people to the world of vocational skills. WSC are organised by WorldSkills International (WSI) which has been organising competitions biennially globally. The 2022 competition that was to take place in Shanghai, China, was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Due to this cancellation, 15 countries have organised WorldSkills Competition 2022 Special Edition in 62 skills to take place between September and November 2022. Stuttgart City, Germany, hosted the competition in industry 4.0, mechatronics, and water technology from October 4 to 7, 2022, bringing together 25 nations. Industry 4.0 basically defines the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies, including cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things, cloud and cognitive computing and creating a smart factory.

Mechatronics brings sets of skills that integrate computer-controlled electromechanical systems for industrial automation. Water technology focuses on skills and innovations that ensure the production and supply of safe water for industrial and domestic use. At the end of the four-day competition, Switzerland, Germany and United Kingdom won gold, silver and bronze in Industry 4.0 respectively. In Mechatronics, gold and silver went to Japan and South Korea respectively, while India, Chinese Taipei and Switzerland all won bronze medals.

For water technology, gold, silver, and bronze medals went to Singapore, India, and Japan respectively. The WorldSkills organisations are in a unique position to foster skills development. Thousands of young people participate in national, regional, and international competitions that generate enthusiastic interest. It also offers opportunities for benchmarking skills, exchanging experiences, and joining forces to develop skills, effective teaching practices, and strong training systems.

The WorldSkills global network is a hub for developing vocational education and training. Quality training outcomes create opportunities for young people that bring recognition and status and ensure skills development is aligned with workplace demands. In addition, the experiences and dreams of competitors make powerful stories that inspire others to choose skills education as the foundation for a fulfilling future. WorldSkills competitions raise quality, promote professional development and drive improvements in vocational training.

In most cases, it is not about winning a medal but the experiences that one gets while training for the competition are what make one a winner in the long run. WorldSkills competitions provide opportunities for learning from the best about new technologies, new ways of organising work, and what kind of training gets results. They enhance skills and characteristics such as teamwork, communication, persistence, practice, willingness to try new things, and skills that get things done well in workplaces.

Experts are vital to competition as they are with competitors at every step. They speak of their satisfaction in supporting young people to achieve at the highest level. As mentors and role models, they bind competitors into the profession they desire. WSI invites young people to broaden their professional identity. It deepens their sense of belonging to their chosen trades and professions. Being a team member brings recognition from highly skilled members of their trades and profession as well as their peers and experts.

WorldSkills is also a platform that is developing the vocational leaders of tomorrow. It is undoubtedly a platform for young tradesmen and their trainers to showcase, compete and learn from all the best in their trades from all over the world.

Dr Kipkirui is the Director General TVETA. [email protected]