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17 October 2017

WorldSkills Conference 2017 concludes with global skills community uniting to identify a pathway for progress

Policymakers, practitioners and young professionals shared a stage on which they hope to lay the foundation for the future of vocational skills on the closing day of the WorldSkills Conference 2017.

Held as part of WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017 – the 44th edition of the world’s largest and most prestigious skills competition, hosted by the Middle East and North Africa region for the first time – the high-level conference has brought together government representatives, thought leaders, and young people from around the world to tackle the biggest issues surrounding technical and vocational education and training (TVET) in a rapidly-changing world.

Over two days of discussion, debate, insight, and exploration at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), the Conference has sought to address how vocational skills adapt to the dramatic impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on the way people live, learn, and work, and how the global skills landscape can cultivate the competencies that employers will need into the future.

Representatives from the world’s foremost vocational and skills development organizations – including UNESCO-UNEVOC, the Global Apprenticeship Network (GAN), the British Council, the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the European Commission – have participated in the Conference, which has seen 15 panel sessions delve into pivotal issues and challenges that will define the future skills agenda at a global level. It has unfolded alongside WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017 – where 1,300 young people from 60 WorldSkills Member countries and regions are showcasing their talent in 51 categories in the world championship of skills, also taking place at ADNEC – with the aim of utilizing the Competition’s global profile to raise the importance of developing vocational skills strategies that meet modern global demands.


The second day of the conference saw a range of sessions focus on crucial areas for the development of TVET, with WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017 opening up a discussion on the relationship between traditional skills and technological innovation. Rashed Al-Shaali, Assistant Professor of Architectural Engineering at United Arab Emirates University; Badr Al-Olama, CEO of UAE-based aero-structures firm Strata Manufacturing; and Jamal Al-Karaki, Division Head of Information Security Engineering Technology at Abu Dhabi Polytechnic, explored the “tensions” between creativity and new technology, whether and how they can coexist, and how important time-honored, cross-generational skill sets are to the economies of today and tomorrow. WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017 also brought together and international panel of experts from education, human resources, and industry, to discuss how modern education systems can be “adaptive”, ensuring they identify and nurture the skills required by a job market that never stands still.

Ways in which skills can ease the youth unemployment crisis and inequality were discussed in a session led by UNESCO, which looked at how global information on skills trends can act as a tool for nations to review and renew their TVET provision; while the European Commission, Cedefop – the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training - and the European Training Foundation jointly staged two panel debates, focusing on how international standards and requirements shape national efforts to provide education and training, and how skills and careers can be truly globalized and border-free through “international TVET mobility”.


Meanwhile, the British Council – the UK’s international organization for cultural relations and educational opportunities – focused its second conference session on providing a “global skills snapshot”, analyzing how skills development systems in three very different countries face challenges that are both distinctive and common. And WorldSkills Russia and WorldSkills Kazan 2019 – which will be the 45th edition of the WorldSkills Competition – provided the opportunity for regional skills stakeholders to address questions surrounding the potential benefits of introducing new training formats and programs, whether school curricula and qualifications should be redesigned to better prepare future skilled workers, and the role of technology in equipping a new generation of skilled professionals.

“We are delighted with the first WorldSkills Conference and thank all of our Coalition Partners for leading the conversation and providing unique networking opportunities with so many leading figures from industry, governments, international organizations, and academia.

delegates were particularly inspired by the confidence and determination of the amazing young WorldSkills Champions who took part in the sessions. They are crucial to the solution of the problems we face and we look forward to continuing the discussion with them and our partners in Amsterdam, Kazan and now Shanghai!”

Laurence Gates, WorldSkills Board Member, Chair of the Conference Coalition

In today’s closing plenary session at the conference, an array of skills and TVET stakeholders – including young professionals – explored lessons learned, experiences gained, and ideas shared during the two-day event. And they also looked to the future, by addressing questions such as how different perspectives and sectors can be united toward the common goal of harnessing the power of vocational skills for economic and social benefit; and the criteria for measuring progress.