Louise Keevil of Derwen College headed the UK delegation at the recent Abilympics competition in Bordeaux, France.
After the competition – the first in which the UK was represented – she shared her thoughts on the event, and how inclusive skills competitions can be developed in the future:
Team UK’s participation in the Abilympics competition was a huge step forwards, both for the individuals involved and for the UK’s inclusive skills sector as a whole. Our mission is always to help people achieve at the best possible level, to their full potential, and we are so proud of our Team UK members, Ben and Simon, and all that they achieved.
The involvement of a full team, including parents and teachers, plus our judges – another first for the UK – and WorldSkills UK personnel, ensured that we were able to provide rounded support for the competitors as they tackled what was an incredibly challenging situation. For both of them, it was the first time that they had travelled overseas – a daunting experience in itself – and they both coped exceptionally well with all the issues that this posed for them. A smile was never far away!
Even though the tutors and judges had seen the criteria for both competitions beforehand, it was not possible to put the set tasks into context until we actually saw them in action. Both boys finished their assigned challenges and although they required assistance, they should be incredibly proud of this – the differences between the basic (in which they both took part) and advanced levels of competition were miniscule, so to achieve what they did in the timeframe was absolutely brilliant.
Using the knowledge we have gained, and the discussions which we have had at a European and global level during the Bordeaux event, it is clear that there is an appetite for skills competitions to help young people build their abilities and compete on a national and international scale. However, we need to evaluate our involvement closely before expanding or changing our programmes: it’s a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”!
Talking to other nations during our time in France, particularly those who are already involved with and working alongside other WorldSkills members, there is a common intention to develop competitions for all. It would be wonderful to think that future WorldSkills and EuroSkills events might feature an inclusive element as a part of the set up, using the infrastructure established for the main event. Whatever we do next, the direction of travel has to be right for students, educators and employers in the UK, to help individuals reach their full potential and maximise employability for the future.
Thank you to everyone who helped Ben and Simon make it to France, and to both of them, heartfelt congratulations for representing the UK so well. They should both be extremely proud of their achievements.