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Sowing the seeds for skills

10 September 2010

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A Triumphant Result for Team Singapore at WorldSkills Calgary 2009: (From left): Carolyn Choo Fang Yi, Gold Medallist for Caring (Team Event); Mr Bruce Poh, Singapore's Official Delegate to WorldSkills and Director & CEO/ITE; Tan Thiam Shui, Albert Vidal Award Winner and Gold Medallist for IT-PC/Network Support; Joan Chong Lay Kheng, Gold Medallist for Graphic Design Technology; Adeline Mah Ching Yee, Gold Medallist for Caring (Team Event); and Edmund Tey Tian Long & Chen Ye Seng, Bronze Medallists for Mobile Robotics (Team Event)

By Victor Yen, Head/Stakeholder Communication, ITE, Singapore

The story of Singapore’s flight in WorldSkills
Singapore is a small island-country in Southeast Asia, measuring just 700 square kilometres and with a population of 5 million. Apart from a strategic geographical location, Singapore boasts no natural resources. Our only resource is our people. With human capital our greatest asset, it is imperative that each individual is educated and trained to his/her fullest potential.

Given this national priority of nurturing talents, Singaporeans who prefer a non-academic profession must have an avenue to pursue a high quality vocational and technical (VTE) education. It is also important to have platforms to distinguish excellence in skills. During the inauguration of the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) as a post-secondary VTE institution, in 1992, then-Prime Minister and current Senior Minister Gok Chok Tong suggested that ITE should lead the nation’s efforts in raising the image of technical education and profile of skilled professions. Strong governmental support had thus sown the seeds for Singapore, represented by ITE, to join the WorldSkills International body in 1993. We have not looked back since. In 1994, the first National Skills Competition (now known as WorldSkills Singapore) was organised. The following year, ITE led a 12-member contingent to participate in the WorldSkills Competition (WSC) in 1995 held in Lyon, France. At the WorldSkills Competition 2009 in Calgary, Canada, the largest Singapore contingent – 19 Competitors in 16 skill areas – participated and scored our best showing to date, in terms of medal haul.

To date, Team Singapore has harvested a total of 16 Gold, four Silver and six Bronze Medals, with 33 Medallions of Excellence from the past nine WorldSkills Competitions. Our youths have also won the Albert Vidal Award twice: Ms Viridis Liew in 2005 and Mr Tan Thiam Shui in 2009. Both competed in the IT/PC Network Support skill area.

Locally, public interest and participation has been growing steadily. Since 1994, eight WorldSkills Singapore Competitions have been organised biennially by ITE, in conjunction with five polytechnics – Singapore Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Temasek Polytechnic, Nanyang Polytechnic and Republic Polytechnic. WorldSkills Singapore is open to young Singaporeans (not older than 21 years old) from secondary schools, Junior Colleges, Polytechnics, ITE, other institutions of higher learning and private organisations. Competition for the honour to represent Singapore at the WorldSkills Competition has become keener over the years and caps have had to be introduced on the number of competitors eligible to participate at each WorldSkills Singapore Competition. 

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Thumbs Up for the 1st Singapore Contingent at International Youth Skills Olympics in Lyon, France, 1995

To allow more talented youths to compete internationally, the WorldSkills Singapore Council endorsed Singapore’s participation in the ASEAN Skills Competition. In 2008, Singapore took part in the ASEAN Skills Competition, a regional version of the WSC, for the first time. ASEAN stands for the Association of South-east Asian Nations, and is a geopolitical and economic organisation of 10 countries located in the region.

As our youths continue to revel in competition, Singapore acknowledges the vital role that WorldSkills International plays in providing an excellent and challenging hotbed for skilled youth, all around the world, to showcase their talent and celebrate their skills.

Mr Bruce Poh, Chairman of the WorldSkills Singapore Council; Singapore’s Official Delegate to WorldSkills; and Director & Chief Executive Officer of ITE, said:

“I would like to congratulate WorldSkills International on your 60th Anniversary. This is indeed a historical milestone that the organisation and people deserve to be proud of. In your years of service to the international community, thousands of youths have benefitted from the WorldSkills Competitions and the networks gained. These life-changing experiences have been invaluable to help them achieve outstanding careers and develop new waves in their industries. On behalf of WorldSkills Singapore, I look forward to many more years of collaboration and participation in the programmes of WorldSkills International.”