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After the life-changing experience of a WorldSkills Competition, many Champions choose to stay connected to this unique skills community. Which is why WorldSkills Korea has set up an alumni network, the WorldSkills Champions’ Association of Korea, that connects Competitors together and uses their experiences to inspire a new generation.

Creating a network of talent in Korea

Since 1967, when WorldSkills Korea first participated in the 16th WorldSkills Competition in Madrid, thousands of young Koreans have successfully represented their country and hundreds have gone on to win medals. Yet for many of the young people who take part, Competitions are just the start of a life-long journey with WorldSkills.

Hyuk Youl Kwon is President of the WorldSkills Champions’ Association of Korea and himself a silver Medallist in Joinery in 1978. He leads a network of people who want to remain closely involved in the work of WorldSkills Korea. He says, “Our national alumni programme not only encourages former Competitors to develop strong connections to each other, but also to give something back to society.”

He continues, “Our membership consists of people who have become vocational training teachers or professors, people who have built careers in skills, as well as owners and CEOs of successful companies. Their stories and insights enhance our network, improve best-practice sharing between industries and education, and increase business connections.”

The WorldSkills Champions’ Association of Korea was first established as a voluntary organization in 1975 under the name WorldSkills Champions Club of Korea. At the time, skilled work was undervalued in Korean society and very few people knew about WorldSkills. Initially, it was just for those young people who had competed at an international level, using their experiences and voices to create a positive narrative around skilled work, and inspire younger generations to consider a future in skills.

Members of the WorldSkills Champions’ Association of Korea stand with a banner in a park.

Its success saw it grow to include national and regional Competitors, alongside international Champions, before re-establishing itself in 2007 as a programme solely for WorldSkills Competitors. Yet despite these natural evolutions over time, it has always been guided by the idea that good friendship and knowledge-exchange between skilled people can lead to national and international prosperity for all.

Now, people who compete in any WorldSkills Competition automatically qualify for membership, and those who pay a voluntary membership fee are recognized as regular members. This organizational structure includes a Secretariat, an affiliated research institute, divisions, and committees under an Executive Team led by the President. 

Members of the WorldSkills Champions’ Association of Korea sit in front of a banner with one arm raised.

With a growing membership over more than 1,000 people, the WorldSkills Champions’ Association of Korea encourages former Competitors to channel their talents back into society and support the advancement of young Koreans and Korean industry. They do this by organizing events and exhibitions, running educational projects, developing teaching materials, and hosting skills exchange programmes that promote the value of Vocational Education and Training.

Many members become mentors to students of all ages, showing them how they can get involved in skills and helping them understand the different steps on the path to skills excellence. Others become trainers, WorldSkills Experts, and Workshop Managers at the Competitions. Some have turned their attention to Korea’s industries as business consultants, while a group of honorary ambassadors, also known as Star Skilled People, go into communities across the country to talk about different skilled professions. What they all have in common is their commitment to “pay it back” and create a culture that recognises and respects skilled people. 

The impact of the alumni continues to grow, helping the message of WorldSkills Korea spread across the country. Hyuk Youl Kwon reflects, “Over our 73-year history, we have nurtured a network of alumni who are making skills more visible and appealing to young Koreans. By sharing and promoting their success stories, we can encourage more young people to strive for skills excellence. At the same time, our Champions are helping aspiring WorldSkills Members s and building business connections across the world. Ultimately, this brings us closer to achieving WorldSkills vision to improve the world with the power of skills.”