World Skills Conference Ends in Abu Dhabi, UAE

A high-level global conference on World Skills, “Abu Dhabi 2017”, with its focus on shaping the future of vocational education and training has ended in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates'(UAE) capital.

The Conference which was held under the theme “Skills Strategies for a Globalized World” was hosted in partnership with Abu Dhabi Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (ACTVET). Representatives from the world's foremost vocational and skills development organizations, including UNESCO-UNEVOC, the Global Apprenticeship Network (GAN), the British Council, the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the European Commission, industry representatives, experts, thought-leaders, and young people from around the world participated in the two-day World Skills event. The Director of NBTE-UNEVOC Centre, Dr. Mrs. Amina Idris was among Nigeria's delegates at the conference.

The aim of the event was to address the foremost challenges facing the development of vocational skills around the world as the 'Fourth Industrial Revolution' ushers in dramatic changes to the way people live, learn, and work, and accelerates the need for technical and vocational education and training (TVET) to nurture the abilities and talents that the industries and economies of the future will need.

During the Conference, 15 panel sessions analyzed and debated pivotal issues surrounding the future skills agenda, with participants including representatives from the world's leading vocational and skills development organizations, such as UNESCO, the International Labour Organization (ILO), and the European Commission, the Global Apprenticeship Network (GAN), and the British Council.

The conference was held as 1,300 young people from more than 60 World Skills Member countries and regions demonstrated their technical skills and craftsmanship across 51 Skills categories at World Skills Abu Dhabi 2017. It was the first time the world's largest and most prestigious vocational skills competition was hosted by the Middle East and North Africa region, with the World Skills Conference 2017 seeking to maximize its global stature and profile to draw attention to the way skills demands around the world are shifting, and the necessity of responding.

Speaking about the platform the event provides for the World Skills Conference 2017 to reach a global audience, Laurence Gates, Vice-Chair of the World Skills Strategy Committee, said: “The international scope, reach, and reputation of the Competition makes World Skills Abu Dhabi 2017 an ideal opportunity to bring together skills development stakeholders from around the world to discuss and debate challenges and solutions, exchange knowledge and ideas, and help to define strategies for ensuring TVET remains at the heart of global economic strategies.

“Through this conference we aim to generate new knowledge, insights, and ideas, and shape the strategic focus that will help to ensure countries around the world are best-placed to provide opportunities for talented young people to succeed, allow employers to gain access to the highly-skilled human capital they require, and align their approach to Technical and Vocational Education and Training with the global forces that influence economic and social development.”

In his introductory address, the President of World Skills, Mr. Simon Bartley said the 2017 World Skills Conference is the first in what will become an annual gathering. Mr. Bartley noted that except for a handful of countries there is still no “parity of esteem” between vocational and academic education and at the same time TVET systems have not kept up to speed with the changing demands of the economies that they serve. “This mismatch”, Bartley noted,“will become greater with the acceleration of the technological changes that we are already witnessing”.

He said in 2016 global youth unemployment rates rose for the first time in three years, with the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimating that the rate was 13.1%. That is 71 million young people out of work. He said the conference provides an opportunity for delegates to hear from some of the leading organizations that will be instrumental in overcoming the challenges of global youth unemployment, the skills gap, and the imminent Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Also, the Director General of Abu Dhabi Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training, Mubarak Saeed Al Shamsi, stated that the need to promote the importance and impact of technical and vocational education and training, and the widespread benefit that ensues from the skills it nurtures, is constant. He said “Vocational skills are not a niche, applicable to certain countries but not to others; they are a universal, global driver of thriving economies and strong, engaged communities, transferable from one generation to the next and always relevant to the fabric of all nations”. He said Abu Dhabi recognizes the importance of technical education and both the UAE Vision 2021 and the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 crystalize their commitment to building a globally-competitive economy for the post-hydrocarbon age.

The World Skills Board member and Chair of the Conference Coalition, Laurence Gates said the Conference 2017 would not have been possible without the support of a committed Conference Coalition, which brings together the international and regional organizations that are leaders in TVET. She said the World Skills is an ideal platform for these partners, which include UN agencies, the European Union, research institutions, policy and thought leader organizations, educators, and employers, to seek solutions for these skills related challenges. She said the Conference is held against the backdrop of the World Skills event, where close to 1,300 Competitors from 60 countries and regions gathered together for the chance to win a prestigious World Skills medal in their chosen skill. “As well as being the greatest skills competition, World Skills is a unique opportunity for all the countries and regions that participate to benchmark their vocational education and training systems”.

Among the sub themes discussed in the conference included; “Voice of the youth: Ground realities in the age of disruption” and “Shaping future-facing TVET policy today”.This is as outlined in the Education 2030 Agenda, where vocational education is key to resolving some of the most pressing global challenges: youth unemployment, environmental sustainability, and the global skills gap. Ministers of World Skills member countries, representatives of World Skills' partner organizations and young professionals discussed policy-level solutions to building a TVET agenda that is adapted to the needs of the future.

The 2018 edition of the conference has been scheduled to hold in October in Amsterdam .