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Taking part in WorldSkills contest step forward for TVET

Opinion
 Students from various universities and TVET institutions during the WorldSkills Kenya national competition. [Amos Kiarie, Standard]

The first WorldSkills competition which took place in 1950 in Madrid between Spain and Portugal 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 countries took this challenge as an opportunity to introduce young people to the world of vocational skills.

To date, WorldSkills movement has a membership of 87 countries across the globe comprising of two-thirds of world population and contributes 90 per cent of the world’s GDP. The movement also provides opportunities for bench-marking skills, exchanging experiences and joining forces to develop skills, effective teaching practice and strong training systems to ensure skills development are aligned with workplace demands.

WorldSkills Lyon 2024, which will take place between 10 and 15 September is the 47th edition of the global skills competition. It will bring together skill sectors, training organisations, local authorities, and institutions supporting young people and skills with the aim of highlighting the excellence of the skills as well as the passion and commitment of young people. A real springboard and catalyst for the development of vocational training in line with the needs of industry.

The movement which is over 70 years old started as 'skills Olympics' was later changed to WorldSkills International (WSI) competitions to distinguish it from Olympic games. Incidentally, the two events will take place in France this coming summer and will be opened by President Emmanuel Macron. Over 65 countries and regions comprising of 1,500 competitors and 1,400 experts will participate in 64 skills and it is expected to attract over 250,000 visitors from all over the world.

The Lyon competition will be the inaugural competition for Kenya with 10 competitors in eight skills representing the country. They will be joining South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Morocco to represent Africa. Only 10 countries from Africa are members of WSI, thus making the continent the least represented in the global skills movement.

This achievement for Team Kenya is a demonstration of the commitment and the investments that the government has put in the TVET sector to meet international standards. Participation of Kenya in the competition will not only help in improving the quality of TVET system but will also put Kenya in the global map of skilled workforce.

The competitions offer real career experience as students are challenged to achieve a level of practice that is professional, in-demand, and expected, as well as to master communication and teamwork skills. This learning-by-doing approach helps contestants make a smooth transition from training to work and fosters the formation of professional identity, independence, and initiative. The WS methodology supplements the learning process with competitions as an integral component. This encourages trainees to realise their potential and study hard. Skills competitions therefore become an integral part of the curriculum and programme. In this context, all trainees and not just contestants, benefit from the power of skills.

WorldSkills Lyon will also host One School One Country initiative which is a cultural exchange programme aimed at providing local students with an opportunity to learn more about WorldSkills and careers in skills. On the morning of the Opening Ceremony in September, each international delegation will be welcomed into their corresponding school, giving local students and international competitors the chance to connect and exchange experiences. Promoting skills, inclusiveness, and cultural exchanges between people of different nationalities, different countries, and different cultures is essential. For this event, Team Kenya has been paired with College Luise Aragon.

The launch of WorldSkills Africa by AUDA-NEPAD on the margins of the upcoming AU Heads of State and Government Summit on February 17, 2024 is expected to rally more member States to join the movement. The WorldSkills Africa launch coincides with the official launch of the AU theme of the Year 'Educate an Africa fit for the 21st Century: Building resilient education systems for increased access to inclusive, lifelong, quality, and relevant learning in Africa'. The launch therefore marks a significant step towards celebrating skills excellence and promoting vocational education for Africans’ economic advancement.

WSI has continued to support its members to develop resilient Vocational Education and Training (VET) system in order to address the ever-changing labour market demands. Globally, there is limited and inconsistent comparative data on VET, which constrains countries in evaluating the success of their VET programmes and learning from international best practices. In order to address this challenge, WSI is partnering with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to establish a Programme for International Student Assessment in VET (PISA-VET) which will help closing the data gap.

The PISA-VET initiative will become the first international large-scale assessment of VET, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality and attractiveness of VET. This is in addition to the goal of the WorldSkills Global Research Council which is helping in developing and disseminating data and research on the impact of WorldSkills at various levels, as well as encourage members to develop more research that can influence policies and investment by both the public and private sectors.

To achieve the objectives of vocational training, WSI activities must become an integral part of the vocational training system of every country as its practices are meant to improve the quality of VET as its standards contain consistent and reliable benchmarks for skills and qualifications. TVET providers use this to revise curriculum and learning assessment methodologies based on these well-recognised and reputable standards. Thus, the WorldSkills competition approach has been successfully embedded into most of the member states vocational education and is making TVET more challenging and effective.

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