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20 September 2010

Looking back in time and congratulations

On top of Europe - Jungfrau - before
WorldSkills St. Gallen 1997

By Cees Beuk, Honorary President

Even though the WorldSkills organisation already existed for 42 years when I was elected President, it still had all the characteristics of a closed volunteer’s organisation.

We did have a Constitution but for example, the legal responsibility of the organisation was not recorded anywhere. Also, up until then it was custom that the retiring (Spanish) President appointed his (Spanish) successor. Over the years there have been many (short and long term), some with a lot and others with little dedication.

When my acclaimed Spanish predecessor Francesco Albert Vidal, the actual founder and heart of the organisation since 1950, announced his resignation it was time to have the first fully democratic election among all members of the General Assembly, to select his successor.

That is how I became the first democratically elected, non-Spanish President, who would deal with much more then the biennial “Skill Olympics” only.

A strategy plan was written to further professionalise the organisation. The WorldSkills Competition should no longer have the character of “just” an international exam. It needed to become much more then that! Attracting a broader audience and the growth of the organisation became the main objective. After all, the more countries participated, the more accurate and representative the results would be and the greater the chance would be to grab the attention of the general public and reach a larger audience. After all, that is what it’s all about: having a world class Competition as a benchmark of craftsmanship on the highest possible level. To organise international skills competitions that attract people's attention and is highly appreciated by the young and talented students, their Vocational Training Institutes, employers, politicians, parents and others. That goal never changed… but what did?

The number of Members of WorldSkills International doubled and has now risen to over 50! The number of Competitors, Experts and other participants increased correspondingly. The Secretariat, which had only 2 part-time employees in the past, has expanded to 9 staff members each with their own specialised profile. An important prerequisite for professionalism and thus a great improvement!

Cees Beuk in conversation with his successor Tjerk Dusseldorp - the current WSI President

The Competition rightfully remained the core business of our organisation and slowly but surely it became more known amongst a wider public. Although we did grow, to many we were still the “World’s best kept secret” as a cynical outsider once mentioned to me. Unfortunately, growth also meant losing some privileges. The International Olympic Committee, who had still turned a blind eye when we used the name “Skill Olympics”, decided that we would no longer be allowed to use it.

A Marketing and Sponsor plan was made, which caused quite a lot of discussion amongst our Members. People feared that “others” or “third parties” would get too much influence. Moreover, there was doubt on how to execute the plans. The fax had only just been common place and internet had just been introduced to the workplace. Opportunities were so limited and there was simply not enough money to start external promotion through television.

But the first steps were taken and the result is impressive! Sponsors joined, promotion came and nowadays all information about WorldSkills International and its activities are only one mouse click away! Photographs and videos (WorldSkills TV) give the viewer the feeling of actually having been there! A great example on what new technology and media have to offer.

I personally feel that WorldSkills’ other activities, such as the WorldSkills Leaders Forum and the WorldSkills Youth Forum are very important additions to the conferences that we used to have in the past. This type of activity shows that there is so much more to learn at a WorldSkills Competition and not just for the Competitors!

Looking at the current skill categories, it shows that many new and interesting skills have been introduced over the last few years. It also shows that many skills have been developed over time, new techniques were introduced, and Technical Descriptions were updated and it shows the developments and innovations of each skill. From personal experience I know this is quite an achievement since there is often a conflict of interests.

Many things have changed over the years, but one thing always remained the same: The enormous enthusiasm and ongoing commitment of so many volunteers to the WorldSkills movement.

I congratulate my successors. Not just with their spectacular innovations but also because they were able to keep the fire burning.

I sincerely wish WorldSkills many more beautiful years and I hope to be able to follow its further developments for many years to come!

Cees Beuk was the President of IVTO from 1992-1999 - to read more go to our history page.