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Lang’at: Skills competitions in technical colleges can transform the world

‘United by skills, we can change the World.” This was the theme of the EuroSkills competition which took place last week in Gdansk, Poland, with 32 countries presenting about 600 competitors in 42 skills areas.

Generally, most of the Member States of WorldSkills International (WSI) concluded their national competitions in readiness for registration of competitors for the 2024 WorldSkills competition in Lyon, France.

Kenya too conducted its inaugural national skills competition from August 18 to September 1, where over 150 youths from 32 TVET institutions and 13 universities participated in 18 skills areas, of which 10 have been registered for competition in Lyon. This momentous occasion will not only provide an opportunity to our competitors to showcase their competencies in their respective trades, but also a sign that Kenya is ready as a source of skilled labour. It will also go a long way in shaping and improving the quality and relevance of our vocational training system.

In the TVET strategy for 2023-29, Unesco has put forth three priorities for skills. The first one is skills for individuals to learn, work and live, the second is for economies to transition towards sustainable development, and third is for inclusive and resilient societies. TVET therefore is at the intersection of education and the world of work and is expected to facilitate the insertion of individuals into the labour market, and their career progression.

It is also part of the social contract which should guarantee the right to education and decent employment, as well as intergenerational solidarity. TVET systems therefore should be proactive in the way they adapt their training supply to the benefit of individuals, economies, and societies.

In order to achieve the objectives of TVET, WorldSkills International (WSI) activities must become an integral part of the vocational training system of every country as WSI practices are meant to improve quality of vocational education.

TVET providers use this to revise curriculum and learning assessment methodologies on the basis of these well-recognised and reputable standards. The key point is that WS standards, adapted to everyday training and assessment preparation, shape training programs and TVET curricula at the micro level.

Thus, the WorldSkills Competition approach has been successfully embedded into most of the Member States vocational education and is making TVET more challenging and effective.

The competitions offer real career experience as students are challenged to achieve a level of practice that is professional, in-demand and expected, as well as to master communication and teamwork skills. This learning-by-doing approach helps contestants to make a smooth transition from training to work and fosters the formation of professional identity, independence, and initiative.

The WS methodology supplements the learning process with competitions as an integral component. This encourages trainees to realise their potential. Skills competitions therefore become an integral part of the curriculum and programme. In this context, all trainees and not just contestants benefit from the power of skills.

The decision of the African Union Commission (AUC) to establish WorldSkills Africa couldn’t have come at a better time than now for a continent with the youngest population in the world comprising of 70 per cent of Sub-Saharan Africa being under the age 30 with high unemployment rate. The choice of AUC to have the theme for 2024 as “Transforming Education in Africa’’ serves as a perfect opportunity for the launch of WS Africa as this will add impetus behind TVET and building the next generation of skilled individuals.

WS Africa therefore will not only be expected to increase the membership of Africa countries in WSI membership from the current nine nations, but also to support Member States to strengthen the alignment between skills development and industry through exchange of best practices.

Additionally, it will contribute to building the competencies needed to effectively engage and benefit from many initiatives like the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and industrialization drive. The creation of WorldSkills Africa therefore plays a crucial role in achieving the goals and vision of the African Union Agenda 2063.

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