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30 December 2020

2020 Year in Review

It's been a year of sadness and disappointment, but also strength and determination.

This has been a year none of us will forget - one of sadness and disappointment, but also strength and great determination.

Only a few short months into his presidency of WorldSkills, Jos de Goey suddenly passed away at the age of 56.

Jos was elected unopposed and unanimously as President by Members at WorldSkills Kazan 2019, and his vision and energy looked certain to carry the organization toward new and exciting goals. He is deeply missed and will be remembered for his vibrant ambition to give young people a chance to hone their skills and develop their talent.

Early into 2020, we were all beginning to feel the force of the COVID-19 pandemic and the world began to shut down. The education of millions of young women and men was threatened, alongside local programmes and national competitions of WorldSkills Members worldwide.

Skills - the essence of our movement - would be instrumental in leading the way forward. At WorldSkills International, we began with a rallying cry to remind the world how skilled workers, from bakers to robot engineers, and mechanics to logistic managers, were keeping life going.

Our Keep the World Moving campaign, featuring heart-warming news of many of our young Champions rising to the challenges of the pandemic, demonstrated how these essential skilled workers became our new superheroes.

From across our Membership came equally inspiring stories, too many to mention here. In colleges, 3D printers were repurposed for masks, sewing machines for hospital gowns and PPE, and in one instance, the produce of an organic training farm distributed to needy families.

It was in their embracing of digital technology that our Members showed their skill, determination, and imagination. Combining rigorous social distancing standards with video conferencing, cloud services, and even body cameras meant numerous national activities adapted to continue their mission of connecting young people to skills.

General Assembly 2020, unable to be held in Dublin, became a virtual gathering for our Members to move the WorldSkills movement forward. This included welcoming three new Members, Azerbaijan, Kenya, and Uzbekistan, and our newest Global Partners, Amazon’s AWS Educate, Epic Games, and John Bean.

WorldSkills was proud to join the Global Education Coalition, an initiative by UNESCO, which brought together more than 140 members from the UN family, civil society, academia, and the private sector to protect the right to education during this unprecedented disruption.

Our Champions Trust, which marked its fifth anniversary, has been an inspiration this year, ensuring that the voice of youth was heard, speaking regularly to the unique challenges facing students in skills programmes who require the hands-on learning support not possible in virtual environments.

With new representatives of the Champions Trust joining for 2020, these young Champions articulated their concerns, views, and hopes across a range of international events including our own WorldSkills Conference Talks, as well as partner events such as the United Nations World Youth Skills Day, the VPET conference, and the OECD’s High-Level Political Forum, to name but a few.

Youth inspired us in other ways, including a record number of applications for our entrepreneurial programme, BeChangeMaker, and the launch this year of BeChangeMaker Africa, hosted in partnership with the HP Foundation and the African Union. Together they attracted nearly 800 entries from 100 countries.

Alongside all major international events, the pandemic has impacted the planning and hosting of the 46th WorldSkills Competition. It is a source of great pride for our movement that the decision, in November, to move the next two WorldSkills Competitions ahead by a year was reached with full agreement of all stakeholders, including the Competition Organizers and Members. We are grateful for the strong commitment of the supporters of WorldSkills Shanghai 2022 and WorldSkills Lyon 2024.

Momentum for the WorldSkills Competition in Shanghai reached new heights in 2020, with the planting of the WorldSkills Flag at the summit of Everest by Chinese mountaineers in May, along with continued progress on the building of the exciting WorldSkills Museum in Shanghai.

This year marked WorldSkills 70th anniversary, recognizing an event in late November 1950, when a small number of young apprentices from Spain and Portugal gathered in Madrid for the world’s first international skills competition.

The anniversary serves as a reminder that when Europe was ravaged by the aftermath of war, investing in skilled professionals was valued as essential to rebuilding not just economies, but the human spirit. Their foresight on the need to unite to develop skilled, young people serves as inspiration that there are no obstacles we cannot overcome together.

Best wishes,
WorldSkills Board and Secretariat