WorldSkills 2011 in Review

The best young vocational learners competed at WorldSkills 2011

01 June 2012

In October 2011, the world’s best young vocational learners gathered to compete at WorldSkills London.


The 2012 Olympic Games is still some months away, but if you’d taken a train a few miles south of the Stratford Olympic Village in early October 2011, you’d have been forgiven for thinking the Games had come early. Crowds of wide-eyed competitors, cheering supporters clad in their nation’s colours and packs of journalists swept into London’s ExCeL Exhibition Centre for the first day of the hotly-anticipated 41st WorldSkills competition.


Global excellence

Touted as the ‘Vocational Olympics’, WorldSkills is a biennial competition that brings together the best young skilled professionals from WorldSkills’ 51 member countries and regions. The 2011 competition was the biggest ever, with 944 entrants competing in 46 different trades. With 200,000 visitors attending throughout the four days of the competition, WorldSkills takes on a far larger role than that of a simple contest – it is a showcase that underlines why vocational skills are so important to the world’s economy.


Future competitors

On the opening day, primary school children from London schools had the chance to try many new skills that could take them down a vocational path later in life – from roof thatching, virtual-reality welding and brick-laying to floristry, confectionery and web design.

In the midst of her exhibition stand that lets primary-age children create glitter-and-glue website layouts, Anna Selway, Lecturer and Advanced Practitioner at Highbury College in Portsmouth, explained why she was there. ‘It’s important that kids get these vocational experiences at a young age as it raises their aspirations, and we’re preparing a generation of children for hands-on careers that we don’t yet know about,’ she says.

Heating up

The competitive aspect of WorldSkills takes place over four days, with some trades working towards a final end-of-competition project, while others require daily presentations of the day’s work.

The fact that competitors have transported their stickered and work-worn tool chests and equipment to the contest is a reminder that WorldSkills competitors have honed their abilities in the working world for paying customers – it is not a sterile academic challenge.

Employer focus

WorldSkills also gives employers the chance to show off their training programmes to a wide audience of learners. Bentley staff demonstrate the dexterity required to stitch leather steering wheels by hand, while BAE Systems apprentices explain the value of their apprenticeships.

BAE Technical Apprentice Rachel Brown supervises a group of schoolchildren trying a gadget-laden Eurofighter Typhoon pilot’s helmet for size while giving her take on WorldSkills. ‘The competition is amazing, I don’t know where else you can see so many skilled people from around the world,’ enthuses Rebecca. ‘It’s nice to see people celebrating hands-on learning. If you took someone out of university they wouldn’t be able to do half the stuff these guys are doing. It’s fantastic.’


Our research reveals that three quarters of young people demand skills-based training to achieve their ambitions Read full research article