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9 September 2010

WSI's founding country, looks back on the history of VET

By Skills Spain

Competitor at the 9th International Vocational Training Contest held in Barcelona, Spain, 1960

Background on VET* competitions
The national competitions in VET began in Spain in 1947 with the participation of 21-year-old students attending vocational training centres and apprentices of public and private companies. In the first competition, approximately 4,000 young people took part, while in 1968, participation figures rose to 60,000. The cooperation of the state and private teaching institutions and the most important national companies in this preliminary organisation should be emphasised.

In the competitions, a total of 44 jobs or specialised occupations of the industrial, agricultural, craftwork and services fields were included. These contests were organised in local and regional qualifying rounds leading to the national competition. Winners became National Champions. Apart from these awards, both the Ministries and the companies granted special scholarships to the best participants, so that they could have access to intermediate or higher degree education. Similarly, prizes were granted in kind (books, tools, machinery) to outstanding teaching institutions in regards to participating in the competitions.

The competitions reached great participation until 1974. Later this participation began to decrease and the whole competition initiative disappeared in Spain in 1983.

International competitions
In 1950, the members of the national competition organising committee managed to confer the competitions great importance. These negotiations were focused on Latin-American countries. Results were negative due to economic problems and the low level of young people’s vocational training preparation in these countries. In the same year, after several failed attempts, negotiations just focused on European countries.

“Virgen de la Paloma” Vocational Training Institute in Madrid, Spain. The venue for International Competitions from 1950 to 1957


In December 1950, on an experimental basis, the first international competition was held, in which Spanish and Portuguese youngsters participated. Argentina, Chile, Peru and Mexico took part as observer representatives. There were also participants of the so-called, at that time, Protectorate of Morocco. On having spread this Spanish initiative in 1953, it was possible to obtain the participation of the Federal German Republic, United Kingdom, Switzerland and France. In the following years, the rest of the European countries joined, being now members of the International Vocational Training Organisation (IVTO).

In the beginning, Spain was the country with the most participants. Spain increased its number of participants from 12 in 1950 to 37 in 1961. In 1962, the participation of Asian countries was achieved, with the presence of Japan and later, South Korea and Chinese Taipei. In 1975, the United States of America joined the contest. In 1981, the international contest spread to the area of the Pacific with the presence of Australia and subsequently, New Zealand and New Guinea. Latin-America joined the contest in 1983, together with Brazil and Venezuela.

Spain, after a period of absence in the competitions, decided to hold the national competitions again in 2007. In 2009, 300 youngsters of all the Autonomous Communities took part in the national competition. We are now planning to participate in 32 skills during WorldSkills London 2011, thus recovering the importance of Spain on an international level. Spain has hosted the WorldSkills Competition 11 times, which ranks them as number one amongst host countries/regions.

Members of the Spanish Team at WorldSkills Calgary 2009


To read the full WorldSkills story visit our history page.

*VET - Vocational Education and Training