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23 May 2024

WorldSkills delegates gather in China to discuss future competitions, global standards, and impact

Shanghai hosts the latest WorldSkills Strategic Development Committee Opt-in meeting, the first in-person session since WorldSkills General Assembly 2023.

WorldSkills participants, WorldSkills Global Partners, WorldSkills Board members, WorldSkills International Secretariat, observers, and associates standing on a lawn at the Strategic Development Committee Opt-in meeting in Shanghai in May 2024.

Between 8 and 10 May, representatives from WorldSkills China, the Chinese Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and the Municipal City of Shanghai welcomed a delegation of over 60 WorldSkills participants, WorldSkills Global Partners, WorldSkills Board members, WorldSkills International Secretariat, observers, and associates to the city to reflect on three strategic themes: Competitions of the Future, the WorldSkills Occupational Standards, and Impact Measurement and Management.

The three-day meeting was held at the WorldSkills China offices at the Shanghai Employment Promotion Center. The agenda was divided into plenary sessions to allow for whole-group discussions, as well as “breakout” planning workshops all designed to help move these critical areas forward ahead of WorldSkills General Assembly 2024 in Lyon.

On day one, Chris Humphries, President and Chair of the WorldSkills Board, opened the meeting with a reflection on how far the WorldSkills community has come since WorldSkills General Assembly 2016 in Niagara, when Vision 2025 was ratified. He spoke of the growth of the membership, the strength and diversity of our Global Partners, enhanced collaborations with international organizations, and initiatives that have driven forward the quality of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) across the world. He reflected that in the 25 years since the WorldSkills brand was established, it is now a globally recognized symbol of skills excellence. He encouraged the gathered delegates to “review our strategy to ensure we stay responsive to the challenges of the next decade across economies, industries and governments”.

David Hoey, CEO of WorldSkills International, went on to remind delegates that no decisions would be made during the week without all Members present, but that the objectives of this meeting were to unpack, explore, and “stress-test” the new principles approved at General Assembly 2023, as well as to discuss and develop other priority initiatives and projects.

Top of the list of priorities was Competitions of the Future, exploring how the organization can ensure the skills portfolio best reflects industry demand and global needs. Over the three days, delegates examined the five principles approved at General Assembly 2023, through which the skill portfolio would be reviewed and assessed. By applying these five principles, it would allow an appointed WorldSkills International body to put forward an updated skills portfolio at General Assembly 2024, ready for WorldSkills Shanghai 2026.

The discussions were led by WorldSkills Board members Heng Guan Teck and Stefan Praschl, and by Jenny Shackleton, Standards and Assessment Advisor for WorldSkills International. They invited delegates to weigh up the merits and restrictions of each principle so they could be operationalized as a new scoring framework. The smaller working groups gave delegates a chance to try out the principles on specific examples currently within the skills portfolio. Jenny reminded delegates that this approach was designed to “improve not revolutionize” the skills portfolio by “removing extremes of duplication and anomalies”.

The delegates were also invited to think about how to evolve the WorldSkills Occupational Standards (WSOS) so they stay as relevant and as valuable for WorldSkills Members and Global Partners as they have proved to be to date. The discussions were led by Sally Messenger, Standards Consultant for WorldSkills International, and Teija Ripattila from Skills Finland. They invited people to share their own experiences of using WSOS in their countries or communities.

Across the three days, there were important discussions on how a WSOS is created and structured so that it becomes a “common core”, as well as the need to strike the right balance between transversal and technical skills. Maybe most critically, delegates considered ways to ensure Members and industry take part in the biennial review process. Delegates heard that, in 2023 to 2024, 500 individuals and organizations were invited to participate in the review, yet only 100 responses were received. Greater engagement in the process will ensure WSOS truly reflect a shared global understanding of what the associated work role(s) or occupation(s) represented in industry and business.

Lastly, delegates joined discussions around the importance of Impact Measurement and Management across the organization, so it can make more informed decisions around the future strategy of its Competitions, programmes, and initiatives. Delegates were invited to share examples of how they currently measure impact, and it was clear that evaluation is already high on the agenda for many Members and partners.

Everyone acknowledged, however, that they are at different stages of their impact journey and are looking for a consistent model to help put some initial measures in place. Impact Consultant, Melek De-Wint, took delegates through the steps of the Impact Measurement and Management Cycle so they could see the process in full. On day three they zoned in on the Theory of Change tool where delegates took part in a live workshop to map out example activities, people, and change that could come from the WorldSkills Competition. At the end of the week, it was agreed that the process would start by identifying a few common areas to measure so everyone felt comfortable with the approach, and that the framework would be co-designed by Members and partners to drive greater engagement.

In addition to the Strategic Development Committee Opt-in meetings, WorldSkills International Secretariat and WorldSkills Board met with the Competition Organizing Committee for WorldSkills Shanghai 2026 and were introduced to the four Operational Directors who would be overseeing the delivery of the 48th WorldSkills Competition. The delegation also paid a visit to the newly launched WorldSkills Museum on the banks of the Huangpu River to see the world’s first permanent exhibition dedicated to skills.

As the three-day session ended, delegates looked to the future with a discussion around emerging occupations and sectors and what this would mean for new skills. There was also a debate about the role of AI in assessment and the opportunities, as well as risks, that it could represent for WorldSkills. Summing up the week, David Hoey thanked delegates for their great contributions and engagement across all discussions and said he “looked forward to more opportunities to meet and exchange ideas in person” in the run-up to WorldSkills Lyon 2024 and beyond to WorldSkills General Assembly 2025 in Dubrovnik. The meeting closed with a summary of actions and next steps across each of the three thematic areas, ready to share back with all Members and Partners at the next virtual Strategic Development Committee Opt-in in June.