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29 October 2021

WorldSkills Conference 2021 closes with a call to action

Over five days, the Conference heard from 80 speakers in 14 sessions, with an emphasis on green skills, poverty reduction, and inclusive apprenticeships.

The challenges facing the global skills community may seem daunting at times, but this year’s WorldSkills Conference illuminated the way forward.

With COVID-19 and environmental issues dominating the agenda, an impressive array of speakers and experts analysed the issues and put forward answers.

Blending video panels and sessions hosted live in Shanghai, WorldSkills Conference 2021 discussed what David Hoey, WorldSkills CEO, called “the most pressing challenges facing global skills development”.

“We know recovery is a fragile process, but we must pay particular attention to vulnerable and marginalized groups who could be pushed back into extreme poverty,” Mr Hoey warned in his speech to the closing session.

“We heard loud and clear that skills are the critical pathway out of this crisis and creating a green future,” he said. “Equal access to skills is necessary to build equal societies and a more resilient world.”

Over five days, the Conference heard from 80 speakers in 14 sessions, with an emphasis on green skills, poverty reduction, and inclusive apprenticeships.

The importance of matching skills training to the new industries and jobs created by the transition to a green global economy was summed up by Neil Bentley-Gockman, CEO of WorldSkills UK and one of the conference moderators.

Despite progress, a worrying skills gap remained for young people and especially women, he said. This was a “massive opportunity for the TVET sector to step in and step up with training opportunities and aligning with these green business needs.”

Among those participating were international organizations from the WorldSkills Conference Coalition — the African Union, British Council, European Commission, Federation Ministry of Education and Research Germany, Global Apprenticeship Network, International Labour Organization, OECD, UNESCO, UNEVOC, and UNIDO.

WorldSkills Global Partners like Stanley Black & Decker, Festo Didactic, and Studica also added their insights, along with educators, experts, and officials from many WorldSkills Member countries and regions.

The voice of youth made an impassioned and urgent demand for action. As Jaqueline Tanzer, the Champions Trust’s Regional Representative for Europe, pointed out: it is their future that is at stake. It could look “scary” and “overwhelming”, as she put it in her speech to the closing plenary, and “make you feel helpless”, but the Conference left her with a “new sense of urgency that wasn’t there before”.

“Youth is incredibly resilient and brave enough to say something needs to change and we want to be the ones to change it,” she said.

The closing session was also shown a video impression of the new WorldSkills Museum, due to open in time for the 46th WorldSkills Competition next year, while Peng Chenlei, Vice Mayor Shanghai spoke of his “confidence of presenting a refined, safe, memorable” WorldSkills Competition to the world.