Skip to main content
My life was transformed because of WorldSkills. When I won a gold medal at São Paulo, the world was seeing a boy that came from a place of social vulnerability, all because that boy had the opportunity to learn a skill that he fell in love with. And I want everyone to have the same opportunity.
— Leo Rodrigues, WorldSkills Champion 2015

Lifting limits and reimagining goals

During a childhood brought up in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Leo Rodrigues’ future was far from certain. At the age of 15, he was one of the 15% of Brazil’s out of work young people. Determined to take charge of his situation, he went searching for employment, handing his CV out far and wide. When luxury jewellery maker HStern called back to offer him an apprenticeship, Leo readily accepted.

Success was not straightforward. Leo knew he didn’t fit the typical profile of a jeweller; and he was told as much by others. He knew nothing about the industry, and he had no personal connections who could offer advice. But his exposure to this new world of artisans sparked a passion in the young Brazilian and he quickly fell in love with the profession.

A chance encounter with another jewellery student who was training to compete in the national WorldSkills Brazil competition proved a turning point. Leo now had a target to aim for and he was prepared to put the effort in to hone his craft. Helped by his WorldSkills trainer, Claudinei, he trained eight to 10 hours a day in the workshop, sharpening his technical abilities such as design, soldering, surface-finishing, and dimension control. Trainers also equipped Leo with transferable skills that would prove invaluable in his later career, like resilience, timekeeping, and communication.

His dedication paid off. Success followed at the regional and national WorldSkills competitions, with Leo taking centre stage for Team Brazil at WorldSkills São Paulo 2015. He brought home Gold for Jewellery - winning for himself, his family, his community, and his country; and redefining what it means to be a skilled jeweller.

Refining his craft and winning awards weren’t the end of his story. Leo has gone on to share his skills. In 2019 he travelled to India to train the country’s Jewellery Competitor. Leo says he could see in their life what he saw in his own. He explains, “There are people who would not usually have the opportunity to learn a profession, who are having their lives transformed by WorldSkills.” One of these people includes his own sister Larissa who, inspired by Leo, took part in the national competitions and is now a jeweller like her brother.

Leo has kept paying it forward. After launching his own jewellery business, he went on to represent the Americas on the WorldSkills Champions Trust and has travelled the world inspiring other young people. His words at WorldSkills Competition 2022 Special Edition encouraged them to use their skills for success, as he has done. He said, “You have shown us that if we use our skills in the right way, then together we create new opportunities; solve problems; reimagine industries; and improve lives. Our skills really can change worlds.”