The final countdown

Posted on 14 Sep 2011 by The Manufacturer

As the UK prepares to host the next WorldSkills event, Aidan Jones, CEO of WorldSkills London 2011, talks about the nature of competition, its philosophy and ticking clocks

We have just over two months to go before London hosts the world’s greatest skills competition and the ticking of the countdown clock on my office wall is getting louder every day…

Having led the centenary World Scout Jamboree celebrations for 40,000 people in 2007, I was appointed to run WorldSkills London 2011 in October 2008, a project that has not only taken over my life, but become a great passion as well.

Taking place at ExCeL London from 5 – 8 October, WorldSkills London 2011 will see 1,000 of the world’s most talented young people compete in their chosen skill. Formerly known as the ‘Skills Olympics’, the event model combines global participation, world class ability and intense training programmes.

To represent your country in anything is an honour most of us can only dream of. Yet all 43 members of Team UK have been selected from thousands of talented professionals to do just this – and whether they get Gold or not this October I hope you will join me in celebrating the talent which will see our industry and skills base prosper in the future.

The scope of the event is enormous including 46 different skills across seven sectors, the largest of which is manufacturing and engineering. From CNC milling to mobile robotics and CAD; there are fifteen skills competitions within this sector. Reflecting this dominance, just under 40% of the square footage of the event space at ExcCel –an impressive 35,000 m2 – will be dedicated to the engineering and manufacturing competitions and ‘Have a Go’ areas. This is a shining endorsement of the manufacturing sector’s importance, to not just to the 57 member countries/regions of WorldSkills, but to UK plc.

Open to the public, WorldSkills is probably the largest interactive exhibition in the world. Around 150,000 people will be able to ‘Have a Go’ at any one of the 46 skills on display and be entertained by showcase college performances from over a hundred of the UK’s top educational organisations. All in addition to the main event, the competition challenges themselves, in which the very best vocational talent in the world will compete against the clock to win gold, silver and bronze medals for their countries.

Key supporters of the manufacturing sector callenges include Honda, Bentley, Snap-on Industrials, Siemens, Nikken, Festo, Mitutoyo and MBDA, but altogether we have around 150 commercial partners, whose sponsorship and dedication to WorldSkills London 2011 will help make this four day skills spectacular a reality.

As WorldSkills reached its 60th anniversary last year, we know that this unique and far reaching event has real meaning and value, for individuals, but also for companies, sectors and economies. Finland saw a massive 8% increase in the national take up of vocational education after WorldSkills Helsinki 2007.

Chinese research has found that 98% of vocationally qualified youngsters in China were employed, as opposed to only 78% of traditional academic graduates. China knows that investing in vocational education makes sense it has also realised that no country, however powerful, can isolate itself if it wants to develop skills. Such an attitude only bring stagnation and that’s why, for the first time China will this year be competing in and investing in the WorldSkills Competition – in order to benchmark skills standards.

As the philosopher Voltaire said in the 1700s “Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” I welcome employers in all sectors to come an appreciate what will be on display in October.

For further information on WorldSkills London 2011 and how you can get involved as an expert or visit, please go to