S'pore team set to battle it out at 'Skills Olympics'

A Singapore team will be among a record number of competitors in a battle of skills in Sao Paulo, Brazil next month.

Some 1,230 young people from more than 60 countries will be vying for medals in 50 areas in the 43rd WorldSkills competition, dubbed the "Olympics of Skills".

This is up from nearly 1,000 participants from 53 countries and regions in 2013. Then, they competed in 46 categories. The event was held in Leipzig, Germany.

In 2013, Singapore's contingent came in seventh with three golds, two silvers and nine medallions of excellence. It won gold for IT network systems administration, beauty therapy and health and social care.

This year, Singapore is sending a team of 22 contestants - the same number as in 2013 - from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and the polytechnics to compete in 20 categories.

These young people between the ages of 17 and 22 are chosen after emerging top of their trades in WorldSkills Singapore - the local version of the competition.

Polytechnic and ITE lecturers said the biennial competition, which was first held in 1950, has become more popular over the years, as more countries recognise the need to value and promote professions in skills among young people.

Some entrants such as Taiwan have also increased the amount of prize money that they will give their young people who win in the competition, to encourage more participation and interest.

The international contest, organised by non-profit group World-Skills International, is meant to raise the image of vocational education and training.

Over the years, it has added more fields such as aircraft maintenance and visual merchandising, and more countries have come on board.

Ms Judith Chng, course manager of the ITE beauty and spa management department - which is sending five students for five categories, including one who will compete in the beauty therapy category - said: "Most categories now have more contestants as more countries have joined in, and it gets harder to win."

Ms Chew Ling Huo, a health sciences lecturer at Nanyang Polytechnic, which is sending 10 students for eight categories, said more countries in Asia, such as South Korea, are taking part.

"Previously they were not aware of WorldSkills, or they were not ready to join," she said. "It's more difficult to stay on top as the countries also gain more experience and their contestants improve."

The contest from Aug 11 to 16 will require candidates to complete tasks - from doing facials and spas to checking for aircraft defects - within a time limit.

They will be judged by a panel of experts from different countries.

There is also an element of surprise, as participants have to solve a challenge during the contest that they have not prepared for.


This article was first published on July 20, 2015.
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