July 05, 2018
Speech by Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education, at the Opening Ceremony of Worldskills Singapore, at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre
Members of the WorldSkills Singapore Council
WorldSkills Officials and Judges
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. Welcome to the Opening Ceremony of WorldSkills Singapore 2018!
2. Many of us are sports fans – we watch all kinds of competitions. We follow the Summer and Winter Olympics as well as the World Cup, which is currently ongoing. An equally impressive competition is happening right before us. We have won 25 gold medals at the WorldSkills competition at the international level. This is the standard of our young people, in terms of their skills. It is apt that the international WorldSkills Competition has been described as the Youth Olympics of skills. Youths from many countries compete with one another by writing computer algorithms, providing healthcare services, creating culinary art, or designing a merchandising showcase. It is not less intense than any sporting competition. The practice is equally rigorous, and the skills displayed are also equally impressive.
3. WorldSkills Singapore is Singapore’s version of the competition, where young Singaporeans pit their skills against one another locally. Top medallists at the WSS 2018 may go on to represent Singapore at larger stages – the ASEAN Skills Competition and the international WorldSkills Competition. The next one will be in Kazan, Russia.
4. This year, we have enhanced the WorldSkills Singapore competition in several ways. First, we moved the competition out of ITE to where we are today, at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre. This is to send a clear message – that this is a national competition for all youths from all backgrounds and all companies and educational institutions, and not just between ITE and the Polytechnics.
5. Hence, undergraduates from our Autonomous Universities will be participating in the competition this year. This makes WorldSkills Singapore a truly national competition of skills, as we now have broad-based participation from all Institutes of Higher Learning, private training providers and trainees from the industry.
6. Second, we are also leveraging on WorldSkills Singapore to enhance education and career guidance for school students, and to help more of our young students discover what they enjoy doing, what they want to study further, and what are the possible careers they can pursue when they grow up. Hence, at this competition ground, you will also find exhibition booths, talks and workshops. They will help our young make informed decisions in their education and career journey. In fact, 12,000 secondary school students will be exploring the interactive booths, and trying the hands-on activities over the next few days.
7. Third, this year’s WorldSkills Singapore is the largest in history. It will bring together close to 250 finalists to compete in 26 skill areas – including new categories such as Cyber Security. Cyber Security is a category that is unique to Singapore. It is not one of the categories at the WorldSkills competition at the international level, but over time, perhaps WorldSkills will introduce Cyber Security as a skill area. We also have skill areas like Rapid Transit Systems, and Water Technology, all of which are areas strategic to Singapore.
8. These positive developments were brought about through the strong support of industry partners and sponsors. Together with our IHLs, employers and industry representatives, we all play a crucial role in encouraging young Singaporeans to develop skills mastery through lifelong learning. Today, we have more than 50 industry partners supporting this event. I am sure the number will continue to grow.
9. I hope that as we watch the competition over the next few days, we will also remember the hard work that the students have invested to prepare for the competition. When I was at the WorldSkills Competition in Abu Dhabi last year, our competitors shared with me how they had spent nine months preparing for the competition, practicing 6-8 hours almost every day. Many of our students had gone on to win medals at the international WorldSkills Competition, so our competition is of international standard and you may well be watching future world champions in action.
10. But the WorldSkills Competition is just the first leg of their lifelong journey. When the competition is over, and the students graduate and start their career, the real life competition starts. I hope the experience will instil a strong sense of pride amongst our students in what they are doing, and inspire many others of their juniors to look up to them as role models and follow their paths.
11. This is how masters are born. A strong sense of pride and passion for their craft, hone their skills over many years of training, practice and improvisation, and passing the skills to an inspired next generation. That is why this year, we have introduced a new WorldSkills Singapore Ambassador scheme, to recognise and celebrate the dedication of past competitors in pursuing excellence, and guiding their juniors.
12. Among our pioneer batch of Ambassadors is Ms Amalina Zakaria, who won Gold in WorldSkills Singapore 2008 in Web Design and subsequently achieved a Medallion in WorldSkills Competition 2009. Amalina is now an entrepreneur. She owns a company called Hello Pomelo Creatives, a boutique web design agency. She said that the WorldSkills journey helped her learn to manage stress, equipped her with strong foundational knowledge, and taught her leadership skills. The experience has also helped her gain respect and recognition from her co-workers, and has proven to be a unique selling point when engaging potential clients.
13. Another Ambassador is Ms Catherine Boey, a former ITE student who won Gold in WorldSkills Competition 2013 in Beauty Therapy, emerging as the world’s best. On her WorldSkills journey, Ms Boey learned self-awareness, strove to overcome her weaknesses and focus on her strengths. Her drive and passion won her an ITE scholarship, and she continued her education at University of Arts London where she attained her degree in Beauty and Spa Management. Today, Ms Boey is back at ITE, passing on her knowledge to the younger generation as a lecturer.
14. I hope that as our ranks of WorldSkills Singapore Ambassadors grow, they will help inspire the rest of our society, and spur on more young Singaporeans in their journey to skills mastery. Together, we can achieve the mindset shift that we seek, and create a culture that celebrates different pathways to success.
15. To all our partners, sponsors and stakeholders, thank you for your support in educating our youths, and supporting the SkillsFuture movement. Supporting our young to realise their aspirations is one of the most fulfilling deeds. To all our finalists, congratulations on reaching the finals of this year’s WorldSkills Singapore competition. Continue challenging yourself to pursue excellence, push the boundaries, and become masters in your chosen field.
16. Thank you.