Welding close upWorld Skills is an extraordinary event.  From plumbers to garden designers, pastry chefs to car mechanics, cabinet makers to welders, hundreds of young people come from all over the world to compete for coveted gold medals.

Newham-20111008-00565The scale of the show is colossal – halls full of cars, robots, landscaped gardens. There are jewellers, aircraft repairers, graphic designers, pastry chefs, florists, beauty therapists. Watching the competitions and taking part in numerous “Have A Go” activities are thousands of young teenagers and their parents, many hoping to find an answer to the big question of what to do next.

The enthusiasm of the visitors moved one employer to tears. He simply couldn’t believe the level of interest in his business.

Newham-20111008-00584If the Korean team return home with a medal for this work of art in sugar, they’ll be treated like national heroes. As will their welders, engineers, web designers and plumbers.Here in the UK we need to do more to celebrate the achievements of our own competitors because they are superb role models. These focussed, talented young people demonstrate the value of contemporary vocational careers. I watched cabinet makers, web designers and plumbers complete demanding set pieces for the judges. But it was our young UK tiler who won my utmost admiration. He’d made an error on his design but the rules didn’t  allow him to go back and correct it. He accepted the mistake, professionally carrying on for hours with the complicated design, determined to finish the rest to perfection.