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History of WorldSkills



WorldSkills International 60th Anniversary Book


It was 1946 and there was a great need for skilled workers in Spain. Mr José Antonio Elola Olaso, who was General Director of OJE (Spanish Youth Organization), had an insight: it was necessary to convince youth, as well as their parents, teachers and prospective employers, that their future depended on an effective vocational training system.

Mr Olaso chose Francisco Albert-Vidal to further develop this idea together with Antonio Almagro Diaz and Faustino Ramos Diaz, who were on different occasions directors of the Work Centres. Dr Diómedes Palencia Albert, Director at that time of "Virgen de la Paloma" (the most important Spanish Training Centre), was appointed as technical adviser for the whole project. For this challenge the most suitable solution was apparently to promote a competition. So, young people's competing spirit would be aroused, adults would discuss the competition results and visitors would be able to see a great variety of trades being demonstrated.





Right from the start, State agencies, enterprises and religious vocational training schools were interested in the idea.

This simple yet brilliant idea of watching people from different trades at their workstations proved to be a great success. So, in 1947, with the participation of around 4,000 apprentices from a dozen mechanical trades, the first National Competition took place in Spain.


But the initiators wanted much more than that. As a matter of fact, they had far-reaching objectives: to motivate youth to compete, to make them enthusiastic about vocational training and to compare skills and abilities of people from different countries.

Due to similarities in language, history and culture, contacts were made with Latin American countries to set up a joint International Competition. At first these contacts did not succeed, but Portugal showed interest in the project. So, in 1950, under Messrs Almagro and Ramos´ direction and Dr Palencia's technical guidance, Mr Vidal started to spread Mr Olaso´s original idea abroad with great enthusiasm, promoting the first Iberian Competition, with the participation of 12 young skilled workers from Portugal and Spain. The International Vocational Training Competitions were ready to start.

Europe gets in

A great number of observers from various countries were invited to the Iberian Competition and were completely seduced by the idea. As a result, in 1953, at Spain's invitation, youth from Germany, Great Britain, France, Morocco and Switzerland took part in it for the first time.

In June 1954, the first Organising Council - composed by official and technical representatives of the participating countries - was established to set the rules for international competitions.

Two personal stories show the great interest the competitions aroused at that time.

  • A young Frenchman read in a local newspaper that an International Vocational Training Contest would be held in Madrid. So, he travelled there at his own expenses and managed to join in.
  • A young English textile worker arrived with his father and was allowed to participate in the competition without previous registration. His work was highly praised by the organizers. Later on, Mr F. Hill - his father - became Official Delegate and Honorary Member of the IVTO. At the age of 85, he attended the 30th International Youth Skill Olympics in Birmingham.


With the participation of young German and Swiss workers, the Spanish organization became acquainted with the dual system, a traditional vocational training model utilized with great success in these two countries.

During 1958 World Exhibition, the 7th IVTC was held in Brussels; one year later in Modena, Italy and, in 1970, the organization made a jump to Japan. With the admission of Members-countries from all continents, IVTO organisation gained experience, increased its knowledge of vocational training and applied new working techniques and methods in several trades.

The idea proves to be successful


As the country that held IVTC for the first time, Spain is considered the founder of the international organization. So far eleven Competitions have been held in Spain. From the beginning Francisco Albert-Vidal headed the General Secretariat and up to 1976 Spain took charge of all expenses, thereby offering various countries the chance of taking part.

The idea to celebrate Vocational Training Competitions can be rightfully compared to Pierre de Coubertin´s initiative to create the modern Olympic Games. Also its motto "great ideas come from the heart" can be applied to the founders of our international organization.


Nowadays, if you visit a WorldSkills Competition, you will be pleased to see the young skilled workers' know-how and seriousness, their pride on having been selected and the pleasure they feel to meet their counterparts from other continents. In spite of language barriers, the experience they gain will certainly affect the professional, personal and human aspects of their lives forever.

The Competitions were not only designed for ranking Member countries/regions and awarding medals. In fact, they give a new impulse to their vocational training systems.


Mr Francisco Albert-Vidal

IVTO President 1984-1992,
IVTO Secretary General 1950-1983

"Fill youth with enthusiasm through special action! Convince young people's parents, trainers and company chiefs that a promising future is possible only through good vocational training".

This was the mission Francisco Albert-Vidal was entrusted with in 1946 and which inspired his life, became the driving force behind all his actions and laid the foundation for the first International Vocational Training Competition in 1950. Our friend thought that the competitions could stir youth to special efforts, help adults to understand different working techniques and offer young people a knowledge of trades which were unknown to them.

During thirty-one Skill Olympics, Francisco Albert-Vidal was responsible for the achievement of the original goals in a changing world: 33 years as an untiring promoter in his position as Secretary General and seven years as President of the International Organisation constantly presenting new ideas. The Vocational Training Competitions became his life's work and the International Organisation was shaped into what it is today.

With good reason he was proud of his achievements, as was clearly seen during our last visit, only one week before his death, at his home in Madrid. Shortly after his retirement as President, he fell seriously ill. Lovingly cared by his wife and his three daughters, he died knowing that his task would continue and that in this way he had considerably contributed to the future of youth.

Francisco Albert-Vidal was buried on October 25th 1993 in his beloved birthplace and hometown of Pinoso, just one hour's drive from Alicante, where he grew up as part of a craftsman's family, with three sisters and brothers, and where he met his future wife. His hometown was struck by the civil war and he was thus forced to choose a different professional path, for the well-being of our international organization and innumerable people throughout the world.


Dr Cees H. Beuk

IVTO President 1992-1999

Cees Beuk graduated as a mechanical engineer and began his career in industry and scientific research.

He subsequently became involved in education and occupied managerial positions ranging from the management of vocational education institutions and teaching training colleges to the National Institute for Test Development and Educational Evaluation in the Netherlands. He also found time to graduate in educational psychology and completed his study as a specialist in educational measurement.

For fifteen years, he has held the position of Chief Inspector of Education and acted as an adviser to the Minister of Education, Culture and Sciences in the Netherlands on such matters as the recognition and evaluation of national and international (vocational) qualifications, particularly in the European context.

He has been involved in the IVTO affairs since 1983, first as Technical Delegate and then as Vice-Chairman of the Technical Committee. In this period among others he designed the IVTO 500-mark system for benchmarking of competition results. As third Vice-President, he was responsible for the organization of the successful 1991 Youth Skill Olympics (IVTC) in Amsterdam. He was subsequently appointed the Netherlands Official Delegate. When he was elected to the presidency of IVTO in 1992, he was temporarily and partly released from his function as Chief Inspector. Until 2002 he also conducted the affairs of the foundation Dutch Skills (sBN), which was established together with leading figures in the employer's federation, unions and government.

In his terms of office, Cees Beuk was the driving force behind a spectacular growth of the organization and the IVTC, he saw as vital for the existence of the Organisation and the IVTC as a powerful lever for helping benchmark performance at the intended world class level, raising standards of skills in all member-countries and encouraging national commitment to training and development. He secured the formal status of the organization by a legal constitution and a statutory home in Amsterdam and he established formal relations with other international organisations, such as the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNESCO. In partnership with the ILO and Japan, he supported the organization of regional skill competitions in Asia and was involved in organization of the first regional skill competitions in Europe in 1998 in Groningen, the Netherlands. In October 1995, Cees Beuk was re-elected as President for a second term of office of four years, in which he continued his strategies. During the WorldSkills Competition in 2001 in Seoul - Korea he received the honorary president title.

After sBN was terminated in 2002 he acted as an advisor to the newly founded Skills Netherlands organization which is a nationwide body that promotes skills and vocational training and stimulates skills competitions. It is the parallel organization in the Netherlands to the national bodies concerned with skills competitions and the promotion of vocational training in the member-countries of WorldSkills International. The last competition Cees Beuk was involved in was 2003 in St.Gallen – Switzerland after which he retired from his skills activities.  


Tjerk (Jack) Dusseldorp

WorldSkills International President 1999-2011

“WorldSkills was an inspired idea which was strong enough to grow successfully into the future. Of course, behind every successful idea or venture there has to be someone who puts it into action. In the case of WorldSkills Competitions it was Spain, or more precisely, some inspired and passionate people, who organised the first international skill competitions, beginning with Portugal and then another five European countries, and hosted the Competitions in Madrid each year right through the 1950s.”

From 1999-2011, WorldSkills International saw tremendous growth and change in every aspect of the organization. Under the leadership of Tjerk Dusseldorp, the Board of Directors steered the organization into new areas of professionalism, sustainability, promotion and awareness. They modernized the governance and management of the organization and took ownership of the WorldSkills Competition. They formally changed the name of the organization from IVTO to WorldSkills International as well as modernized all aspects of the professional public image of the organization. In 1999, a Marketing Group worked to develop a 10-year action plan that outlined the goals and objectives for the organization and by 2010, it was completely realized with the highlights being the achievement of 10 multi-national organizations sponsoring WorldSkills and in some cases it was surpassed in areas like membership growth (goal was 50 Members by 2010, there were actually 53 by 2010). The Board developed and lead several action plans including Vision 2020. By clarifying committee functions, coordinating and integrating the work of the Committees and utilizing task forces more, the Board made the organization more effective and productive. Opening lines of communications with Members, volunteers, and Sponsors facilitated a wider group for sharing best practices and resources.

During this time, the Board split its operation guidance between the Technical and Strategy Committees. The Technical Committee increased the professionalism of individual competitions and the overall Competition. Technical Delegates were involved in the development and managing of competitions facilitating greater learning and sharing. The Skill Management Team structure was developed. As the WorldSkills Competition continued to grow so did the need for more professional documentation and knowledge management. Working Groups were implemented and effectively utilized. There was complete partnership and synergy between the Competition Organizers and WorldSkills. For the first time in the WorldSkills history, Regional Competitions were held four regions of the world (WorldSkills Americas,WorldSkills Europe, WorldSkills ASEAN and WorldSkills GCC) and WorldSkills International supported their development and growth. A uniformed digital marking system called the Competition Information System (CIS) was developed and continues to be enhanced at each Competition.

The Strategy Committee engaged the Official Delegates fully in the development of the sustainability and future of the organization. In order to protect and grow the organization, the WorldSkills Brand Strategy was developed and implemented. Relationship building and nurturing was key for this committee as it facilitated interactions between Members, Regional Competition Organizers, Governments, Sponsors, and educational institutes through the development of programmes like the WorldSkills Premiere Experience, WorldSkills Leaders Forum and WorldSkills Connect. Strategic planning was a great focus for the Board and the Strategy Committee as they moved towards a more professional organization. Development of key material such as the Action Plan 2008-2011, Brand Strategy, Sustainability Plan and Vision 2020 allowed input from all Members and stakeholders. Through the efforts of the entire board and especially the Treasurer and risk manager, the organization achieved greater transparency throughout, and greater involvement with Members and the whole WSI network. The organization gathered clarity and focus surrounding the WSI vision, mission and brand.


Boad of Directors in 2009: Terry Cooke, Laurent Thibault, Simon Bartley, Marie-Thérèse Geffroy, Roberto Spada, Liam Corcoran, Veijo Hintsanen, Yoo Bae Kim and Tjerk Dusseldorp

Moving into the 21st century and the digital era, the Board recognized the need to make the whole organization much more focused on marketing and promotion through programs like "WorldSkills Champions on the World Stage”. Greater promotion and awareness brought a significant increase in Membership which greatly extended the global/geographic reach of WorldSkills. Through strategic efforts and targeted strategies, international media began to take notice of the organization with just under 1,000 media accredited to cover the 41st WorldSkills Competition in London, United Kingdom in 2011.

All of this increased exposure and expectations led the Board in 2005 to recruit a full-time CEO and professional secretariat for the organization to successfully move the mandate and objectives forward. The structure for the Secretariat was developed as a virtual office model to ensure staff could be recruited from anywhere in the world. This essentially makes the organization open 24 hours a day with staff in most corners of the globe. 2005 was an pivotal year for branding as well as it was the first year that the WorldSkills Competition was branded WorldSkills.

Youth engagement and promotion was integral for this Board. They saw the reason for WorldSkills existence as the youth. In order to better serve and aid the development of skills in youth throughout the world the Board oversaw the development of programmes like the WorldSkills Portal and WorldSkills Youth Forum. Youth were given the opportunity to have input into the improvement of the WorldSkills Competition and the development of the organization.

Before 2000, WorldSkills relied on membership fees alone. The Board recognized the need to actively recruit and seek out the partnership of key international organizations that were interested in furthering the mission and mandate of skills worldwide. Global Industry Partnerships were developed and their financial and in-kind contributions enabled WorldSkills to strengthen the organization that, in turn, enabled the improvement of the Competition and gave more added value to the Members, the various stakeholders and target audiences.

The final legacy of the Board was to create a strong base for the next phase of the organization's development, reach and effectiveness with the creation of the WorldSkills Foundation. The WorldSkills Foundation shares the same vision and mission with WorldSkills International and will extend the scope and reach of the skills movement beyond the impact of the WorldSkills Competition.   

Board of Directors in 2015