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The skills our economy needs to grow & thrive

Sue Husband OBE, Director of Business in the Community Cymru, is passionate about equipping young people with the skills they need to have rewarding careers. Previously the UK representative for WorldSkills UK and official observer on the Board, Sue explains the importance of WorldSkills competitions to celebrate and support the development of the vocational skills that our economy needs to grow and thrive.

Time and again, history has shown us that innovation has come from times of adversity. Difficult periods highlight the importance of coming together and working to create a better future for our young people.

Today, WorldSkills competitions take place globally every year and culminate in an international final every two years. They demonstrate the skills of young people in over 60 categories and are an opportunity for young people to showcase their hard work and dedication on the world stage. It’s a celebration, not just of themselves but also of the essential, vocational skills our Welsh and UK economy needs to grow and thrive.

WorldSkills wasn’t always the international competition it is today. Born in 1946 from the devastation of World War II, it was designed to bring countries across Europe together to rebuild in the face of huge skill shortages and struggling economies. In many ways, the challenges they faced then are not dissimilar to the ones we face now.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll, not just on our economy here in Wales but across the globe. In a post-COVID and post-Brexit world, we could be forgiven for feeling that there’s more than ever before which divides us. Yet it’s arguably more important that we come together and unite to rebuild a better and fairer world.

As we begin to look beyond the pandemic, and towards economic recovery, our young people will be essential to our success. Wales needs specific skills to adapt and thrive in a very different economy to the one we had just two years ago. With Brexit contributing to skill shortages and gaps in the labour market, encouraging young people to take up the skills Wales needs has never been more important.

COVID-19 has prompted fears of missed opportunities for our young people, leading to a ‘lost generation’ of individuals with fewer opportunities available to them. But, while some industries have been impacted greatly by the pandemic, other sectors are struggling to fill positions. Jobs in sectors like construction, logistics, and IT have never been more plentiful, especially with new and existing industries adopting greener and more sustainable practices. The roles those industries play for our economy here in Wales and the wider UK have never been more important than they are now. These are the skills we need to foster within our young people as we rebuild the economy.

Year on year, we’re seeing an increasing number of Welsh competitors at WorldSkills through the help of the Inspiring Skills Excellence in Wales programme which aims to nurture talented competitors and tutors and support them in their competition journey. Competitors from Wales accounted for over 30% of the national finalists at the UK competition in autumn 2021 and Team Wales brought home 70 medals.

More recently this year, we saw the fresh competition cycle begin again with the Skills Competition Wales. Over 800 young Welsh people took part in regional competitions across the country from January to March, scooping 267 medals in over 60 different disciplines.  Many of these finalists will now go on to compete in the future national and international competitions at WorldSkills UK.

In October, four Welsh competitors will be representing Great Britain on a global stage in the 46th WorldSkills International competition. Set to be held in Shanghai, the individuals will be joining the Team UK squad, competing to be the best in the world at their chosen skill.

Not only will their achievements be celebrated internationally, but the medallists and their employers will go on to become important ambassadors, championing skills in Wales and inspiring future competitors to develop their skills to a world-class standard and maintaining excellence in much-needed vocational sectors across the country.

Initiatives like the Welsh Government’s ‘Young Person’s Guarantee’ are there to ensure everything is being done to deliver a strong and fair economy for our young people, now and in the future. The initiative aims to ensure there is no ‘lost generation’ in Wales by supporting everyone under 25 in Wales with the offer of work, education, training or self-employment as we look forward to a more prosperous and more equal Wales.

But we know that a strong global economy profits us all. And, ultimately, that’s why celebrating skills on a global stage at events like WorldSkills is so important. We will all benefit from a younger generation that is highly skilled in the areas we need to move forward as a united, global economy.

To find out more about the WorldSkills competition, Team Wales’ upcoming events and how to get involved, either as a competitor or a business, visit

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