worldskills 2017

Australia’s WorldSkills team – the Skillaroos – will be finalised in July.

In a few months’ time competitors and experts from 77 countries and regions will convene in Abu Dhabi for 44th WorldSkills Competition. From October 14-19, more than 1000 competitors will put their skills to the test in 50 skill categories ranging from bakery and electronics to welding and health care.

Australia will select its team from the Skills Squad which comprises 24 candidates who excelled in national competitions conducted during 2016. They are supported in their bids to make Australia’s Skillaroo team by experts from around Australia who are providing Skills Squad members with mentoring and structured support designed to hone their skills.

In the 2015 WorldSkills Competition in Brazil, the Skillaroos saw Australia placed 12th in the overall rankings. WorldSkills Australia has a top 10 ranking in its sights for 2017.

Skills competitions have broad benefits

WorldSkills is a good deal more than a competition that showcases top flight skills. During the 2011 WorldSkills Competition in London a group of researchers from Finland, Australia and the UK investigated the broad impact of WorldSkills competitions. Their 2012 report, What Contributes to Vocational Excellence? (75 pages), tells a story that is much richer than a competition. It’s a story familiar to many VET professionals who have served as experts in supporting students to participate in WorldSkills regional, national and international competitions.

An overview of the report, WorldSkills – Inspiring skills excellence (12 pages), is a good place to start in unpacking the research messages. You can download both the full report and overview from the WorldSkills website.

The research team reported that,

‘WorldSkills competitions raise quality, promote professional development and drive improvements in vocational training.’

WorldSkills has pursued these benefits in quite specific ways. For example, the design of competitions has changed to incorporate a greater focus on social and emotional skills which the research revealed as very significant for individual competitors.

Developing and using WorldSkills Standards Specifications

In addition, after the 2011 London Competition work was commenced on WorldSkills Standards Specifications. The standards have been released progressively and there are now 50 standards organised in 6 categories: Construction and Building Technology; Creative Arts and Fashion; Information and Communication Technology; Manufacturing and Engineering Technology; Social and Personal Services; and Transportation and Logistics. All 50 standards are available on the WorldSkills website.

The standards have several purposes beyond serving as reference points for assessing the skills of competitors in WorldSkills competitions. They adopt an international perspective on skills, which means they work as global benchmarks for vocational skills wherever they are taught. This means they can be used to inform the development of internationally competitive regional economies. Applying the standards also powers up international work mobility for vocational education graduates.

In addition, vocational education and training systems and providers can measure their qualification designs, delivery and assessment against standards established through extensive collaboration between industry and VET experts. That’s exactly how they were used in developing degree apprenticeships in the UK in the last few years. We might do well to consider them more often and more closely in Australia too.