What are you good at? DIY? Cooking? Construction? Designing? Or are you great at customer service or organising things? Everyone is good at something and we all possess at least one skill or talent that we can share with the world and use to not only enhance our own lives, but those of our families and communities too.

On Wednesday 15th July, people across the world will celebrate World Youth Skills Day – a day set aside to help to build confidence, empower communities and fuel economies. It’s organised by WorldSkills, a worldwide organisation supported by the United Nations and various countries and industry partners, who see a role for education, industry, government and policy makers to raise the profile and recognition of skilled professionals around the globe. Their vision is to improve the world through the power of skills and their mission is to raise the profile and recognition of skilled people, and show how important skills are in achieving economic growth and personal success, as well as addressing the challenges of youth unemployment in the world. With the Covid-19 pandemic set to adversely affect the employment prospects of many young people in particular, there has never been a better time to champion their skills, join in and help.

How did it start?

At the end of the Second World War, many country’s economies, especially in Europe had been devastated by 6 years of brutal war. There was a huge skills shortage which needed to be addressed if the world was to get back on its feet, not only to rebuild the infrastructure that had been destroyed, but to avert a new economic depression. Spain and Portugal recognised the need to promote skills in their youth and Francisco Albert Vidal was charged with creating a skills contest to inspire and motivate them.

This led to a small competition in Madrid in 1950, and although small compared to today’s standards, it started an international movement.

In 1958, the competition moved abroad for the first time, to Brussels, Belgium and in 1965 it came to Glasgow, UK. As more and more countries joined the movement, different skills were added and new outreach programmes included. The competition returned to the UK in 1989 in Birmingham, and by 2007, the Japanese hosts at Shizouka introduced the “One School, One Country” initiative which paired each country’s competition team with a local school in the host country. The teams worked with the schools over the week to introduce them to a variety of vocational skills and diverse cultures. Currently, there are now over 84 member organisations, potentially reaching two-thirds of the world’s population and the competitions are bigger than ever. Competitors need to be 22 or under, but in certain team events, the age limit is to 25.

Competitions, conferences and collaboration

Although July 15th is celebrated each year as World Youth Skills Day, there are competitions, selections, trainings and other country-led initiatives going on throughout the year in individual countries and regions. The worldwide international competition is held every two years, with the next one being in China in Shanghai in 2021, and there are European competitions every second year too.

But it’s not all about competition – it really is about motivating and encouraging young people to learn skills that can potentially change their lives. The WorldSkills website says:

“We believe #SkillsChangeLives. Through the power of skills, individuals, communities, and countries are propelled towards a more prosperous future.”

WorldSkills UK is the official WorldSkills member for the UK and is recognised by the United Nations. It has been influential in raising awareness of the need for young people to acquire new skills to advance their socio-economic conditions since its inception. They have a lot of free resources on their website including a careers advice toolkit, tutorials and skill demonstration videos, and the opportunity to have a Skills Champion (a young person who has proven their skill in a competition) visit a school or college to talk about their experiences and teach some skills.

Whilst this may not seem as relevant for early years children as for older young people, there are many settings across the UK who employ apprentices which could benefit from learning new skills or enhancing the skills they already have. As a responsible employer, it would be advantageous to empower your workforce right across the board. The range of skills promoted by WorldSkills is diverse; from aeronautical engineering to floristry; fitness training to web design; and stonemasonry to digital merchandising to name just a few, so there really is ‘something for everyone’. 

In the UK, there are 4 main categories:

  • Engineering and Technology
  • Digital, Business and Creative
  • Health, Hospitality and Lifestyle
  • Construction and Infrastructure

New skills are being added as they develop and competitors can now compete in health and social care categories, so we, at Parenta, are keen to see if early years or nursery practitioner skills make it into the competition arena soon.

All of these events and competitions raise the awareness of youth skills and can help you in your recruitment drives whether there are competitions or not because attending events will ultimately bring you into contact with careers advisers, trainers and young people who are interested in apprenticeships, training and upskilling themselves.

WorldSkills UK LIVE 2020

The UK’s largest skills, apprenticeships and careers event is planned to take place on November 19-21, 2020 but obviously this cannot be confirmed at present due to current lockdown restrictions. However, you can sign up on the website here to register your interest and receive updates and relevant information about the event and other related WorldSkills UK content.

To show your support for the day, WorldSkills UK are encouraging people to use the hashtag  #SkillsRuleTheWorld on their social media accounts and share a behind-the-scenes photo of how they develop, share and get young people to develop their skills at work. Why not inspire the young people in your setting to learn some new skills such as cooking, some DIY or basic construction? You never know when they might come in handy!

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