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31 January 2022

Integrating WorldSkills Occupational Standards into China’s VET system

WorldSkills Standards and Assessment Advisor, Jenny Shackleton, shares her insights on how the WorldSkills Occupational Standards can accelerate reforms.

VET stakeholders met in China’s Guangdong Province in December 2021 as part of preparations for the 46th WorldSkills Competition in October 2022.

More than 230 people attended the “WorldSkills Competition and WorldSkills China: 2021 Summit” in Guangzhou — mostly teachers of technical institutions but also policymakers, academics, and industry experts — to accelerate their understanding of WorldSkills Competitions and the benefits of WorldSkills membership to drive system reform and development.

The keynote speech was delivered online by Jenny Shackleton, WorldSkills Standards and Assessment Advisor, who spoke in detail about the nature and direction of the WorldSkills Occupational Standards.

The WorldSkills Occupational Standards, which are reviewed biennially, set the scope and limits of a skills competition. They draw from ISCO, ESCO, and o*net — international occupational classifications and databases, which represent expansive occupational practice and mastery.

“WorldSkills Occupational Standards are reference points to help Members review the capacity and capability of their vocational education and training systems,” said Jenny Shackleton. “They’re a window on the world of those occupations. A communication and mobility tool. And an advocacy tool for what ideally should go into the training and preparation of a person in the labour market, no matter what a system is like.”

The classifications developed by international bodies can be complex to use in practice. WorldSkills Occupational Standards turn this material into a simple holistic tool for practitioners and their managers to measure the gap — in both depth and breadth — between national and regional VET systems and the Standards.

During her speech, Jenny Shackleton acknowledged the “deep and broad interest” of China and industry partners such as VCOM to use WorldSkills to improve VET standards in China and beyond.

If WorldSkills can help build a partnership with Guangzhou and VCOM, it would be hugely helpful for China.

“By applying WorldSkills Occupational Standards as a reference to develop their own national system, the standards would tend to be adopted in other parts of the People’s Republic,” she added.

A retired college principal from the UK, Jenny Shackleton has had a key role in the development and promotion of the WorldSkills Occupational Standards over the past ten years, when she was first tasked to develop their framework and combine international classifications with WorldSkills expertise. 

“When I took up this role, it was very evident that there weren’t explicit standards for each skill competition. The standards were implicitly embedded in the Test Projects and Marking Schemes. At the WorldSkills Competition, young people compete on the basis of outcomes and performance, so it was necessary to have a framework and a design concept which was fair and seen to be equally relevant and important to all the Members,” she said.

Jenny has also been responsible for reviewing and improving WorldSkills assessment techniques and introducing judgement for qualitative assessment as an equally respected assessment method to measurement.

The WorldSkills Occupational Standards will soon have their own Development Centre hosted by Skills Finland, which will serve as a community of expertise in various areas, tracking occupational change, harmonizing, and supporting the contributions that Members provide, and supporting capacity building for Members and the WorldSkills movement alike.