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The challenges of mainstreaming excellence in technical education

The first Skill Olympics1 were held between Portugal and Spain in 1950. The UK, along with five other European countries, joined this competition in 1953. These events became known as the WorldSkills Competition (WSC). The WSC is organised by WorldSkills International (WSI). WSI is a non-profit association that promotes Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) internationally in traditional trades and crafts as well as in multi-skilled vocations, such as Manufacturing Team Challenge, and those utilising newer technologies and innovative services. Currently, the competition – the 45th WSC is being held in Kazan in 2019; the 46th will be held in Shanghai in 2021 – brings together around 1600 contestants mostly aged 16-222 from more than 60 countries, who gather every two years to compete publicly and demonstrate excellence in 56 skill areas.3 The skill areas are grouped into six skills sectors: Construction and Building Technology; Creative Arts and Fashion; Information and Communication Technology; Manufacturing and Engineering Technology; Social and Personal Services; and Transportation and Logistics.

Team UK is managed by WorldSkills UK (WSUK; formerly UK Skills).4 WSUK is a partnership between business, education and governments, which unites experts from across the UK to run skills competitions for thousands of young people every year in key economic skills areas. They champion young people’s training achievements and success at the annual National Finals and the top achievers, Team UK, then undergo further intense technical and mindset training to prepare them for international competition.

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