In a first for the UK, two competitors will be taking part in the Abilympics competition in Bordeaux this weekend. 

Ben Joyce (17) from Durham and Simon Davies (16) won gold medals at The Skills Show in 2015 and were selected to represent the UK in V23 Data Processing and VQ3 Cabinet Making respectively.

Supported by a delegation which includes representatives of Derwen CollegeNatspecAoC and WorldSkills UK, the pair will compete for medals against students from as far afield as Mongolia and Indonesia. In addition to observing and supporting the competitors, the UK delegation is fact-finding to help the future UK inclusive skills agenda.

WorldSkills UK caught up with President of WorldSkills International, Simon Bartley, to find out more about the relationship between the two organisations:

Overall, being here in Bordeaux reminds me so much of WorldSkills competitions across the world.

Simon Bartley, President of WorldSkills International

“The same set up for competitions, the same infrastructure, the same professionalism, enthusiasm, administration and hospitality! Everything feels very familiar and nowhere is that more obvious in the enthusiasm of the experts and the teams. Talking to competitors, if I shut my eyes I could be at a WorldSkills competition – they have the same dreams and ambitions, the same hopes and concerns.

“It’s clear that the two organisations – WorldSkills and Abilympics – have been getting closer and closer in terms of levels of excellence for a number of years, and we have the same ambitions moving forwards, which is very encouraging from my point of view.

“Governments, educators, parents and politicians worldwide are waking up to the fact that successful economies can’t be based on a single branch of education – we need mixed skills and mixed economies to operate and thrive.  This is where WorldSkills and Abilympics come in – both are seeking to promote skills and jobs at the same level, addressing the same level of government and bureaucracy. As a result, In the future I want the two organisations to work more closely together – we will undoubtedly be stronger together than operating independently.  

“Can Abilympics and WorldSkills hold events together?  It has happened before (in Japan in 2007) but there are lots of considerations, not least that cities bidding to hold world events need to be successful in both processes.  Both are member organisations with their own individuals and personalities, and their own infrastructures: however it’s not something dismissed out of hand. If by coming together we advance the world of skilled labour, irrespective of groupings or abilities, then there is no reason not to do it.

“I am thrilled by the changes that we are creating, not least the fact that Team UK is taking part.  I am thrilled to see the UK here in Bordeaux – their participation in this year’s Abilympics is the biggest win ever as far as I’m concerned.  Medals if they come would be fantastic – but being here is the biggest win.  

If what we do makes peoples’ lives better, then we should give up lunch once in a while and pay for more skills competitions. Young people achieving is our priority. It’s that important.”

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