Kipkirui Langat

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

WorldSkills Lyon 2024, which will be taking place on 10th – 15th September 2024 is the 47th edition of the global skills competition. It will bring together skill sectors, training organizations, local authorities, and institutions supporting young people and skills to highlight 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 the “skills Olympics” and was later changed to WorldSkills competitions to distinguish it from the Olympic games. Incidentally, the two events will be taking place in France this coming summer and will be opened by French President Emmanuel Macron. Over 65 countries and regions comprising 1500 competitors and 1400 experts will be participating 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 8 skills representing the country. They will be joining South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, and Morocco to represent the African continent. 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 commitments and 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 the TVET system but will also put Kenya on 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 realize 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 the One School One Country (OSOC) initiative, which is a cultural exchange program 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 17th February 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 a resilient Vocational Education and Training (VET) system to address the ever-changing labor market demands. Globally, there is limited and inconsistent comparative data on VET, which constrains countries in evaluating the success of their VET programs and learning from international best practices. To address this challenge, WSI is partnering with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to establish a Programme for International Student Assessment in VET (PISA-VET) which will help close the data gap.

The PISA-VET initiative will become the first international large-scale assessment of Vocational Education and Training, 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 encouraging 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-recognized 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.

The author is the Director General TVETA