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25 October 2021

Launch of WorldSkills Conference 2021

This year’s Conference is a five-day hybrid event taking place in Shanghai and online focusing on skills for green jobs, poverty reduction through skills, and the future of apprenticeships.

WorldSkills Conference 2021 has opened with a powerful call from Chris Humphries, WorldSkills President, for skills to lead the global recovery from the pandemic — what he called “perhaps the most testing time in the history of our movement of more than 70 years.”

COVID-19, he said, had disrupted the education of millions of young people and exposed the gap between more prosperous countries and disadvantaged regions.

He described the Conference and the upcoming Competition WorldSkills Shanghai 2022 as “our time to hit the reset button.” It was a chance, he said, "to take a hard look at the lessons of the past two years and the challenges of the future, and seek ways in which vocational skills and education can make our world a better place for everyone.” Through WorldSkills 85 Member countries and regions “we can find solutions and draw on its power to energize us all with a renewed spirit of optimism to rebuild stronger and with more inclusion.”

This year’s Conference is a five-day hybrid event taking place in Shanghai and online, with the objective of allowing maximum international participation. It is free to attend and runs 25–29 October. It will focus on three priorities, with skills for green jobs, poverty reduction through skills, and the future of apprenticeships.

The first day took up the President’s theme with an opening session devoted to The Road Ahead — Skills for a Resilient Future and was addressed by:

  • Zhang Jinan, China’s Minister of Human Resources and Social Security,
  • Guy Ryder Director General of the International Labour Organization,
  • Bernardo Calzadilla-Sarmiento of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and
  • Gong Zheng, the Mayor of Shanghai.

It was followed by a series of panel discussions beginning with the impact of COVID-19 on green skills, and the solutions and opportunities they offer for pressing issues like climate change.

Among those taking part were Olga Strietska-Ilina of the International Labour Organization who said that the ILO had calculated nearly 9% of working hours globally had been lost in 2020 - equal to 225 million full time jobs.

But, she added, “it is encouraging to observe that governments, regions, and local authorities around the world have already started to discuss climate friendly and green recovery packages.”

Also taking part were Dejene Tezera, UNIDO’s Department of Agri-Business Director, and Lee Hee Dong, WorldSkills Champions Trust representative for Asia.

A CNC Champion who now works for Samsung, Lee said: ”My generation needs to lead the way in taking individual responsibility for making the world greener and urge industry to do the same.”

“Young people want to contribute to a greener economy, find fulfilment working for companies whose green values align with our own.”

A second panel, on the theme of Building skills for resilient societies, looked at the impact of Covid-19 on jobs and the future of work, with a focus of China and the Asia-Pacific region.

Speakers included:

  • Buti Manamela, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training,
  • Wikan Sakarinto, the Director General for Vocational Education at Indonesia’s Ministry of Education, and
  • Wang Xiaojun, Deputy Director General of Vocational Capacity Building Department, at China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.

The final panel session of the first day looked at innovations in apprenticeships post-pandemic, and their potential to create more resilient societies and economies.

Those taking part included:

  • Laurent Freixe, Nestlés Executive Vice President and CEO for the Americas and
  • Tian Feng, Deputy Director General of the Vocational Capacity Building Department at China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.