Sunday, 23 October 2011

This is why I'm proud of what I do

This post isn't about India, but it is about my work (which is, after all, the reason I am here in the first place). I haven't talked much about my job on here, because I want to keep the blog mainly focused on my experiences in India and because, being a policy wonk, much of what I do would not, I admit, make for particularly interesting reading for most people.

But I am really proud of what I do. I work in vocational education, for a UK organisation that provides vocational qualifications across a whole range of fields and sectors. My area is mainly policy and advocacy, so although I can talk till the (holy) cows come home about a whole range of issues in education I hardly ever get to witness actual learning taking place or meet the learners who take our qualifications.

So it was great, while I was in London, to attend WorldSkills 2011 - an international competition that brought together young competitors from over 60 countries to demonstrate their abilities in skills ranging from landscape gardening to robotics. All of them are taking or have recently taken vocational qualifications, and all of them had won similar skills competitions at the national level in their own countries. Basically we are talking about some very impressive people with talent, brains and a serious work ethic.

The event was HUGE. It was the biggest event ever to be held at the Excel Centre in London, and if you've ever been there you will know that means it was massive. The logistics must have been a nightmare - the centre needed to have soil plots for the gardeners, an entire section of the exhibition with extra pipes for the plumbers, fully equipped kitchens for all the catering competitors, protective booths for the welders...I could go on. Kudos to the organisers for apparently making everything go like clockwork.

But of course the real draw was the competitors. Being someone with not a practical bone in his body, I have always been impressed by people with technical knowledge and skills. Someone who can look under the bonnet of a car and know how to make it run, or produce flawlessly designed and produced clothes, or understand exactly what building materials to use for a specific function and how, have abilities that are, to be frank, a bit of a mystery to me. Too often vocational education is dismissed, but the reality is that these skills are the result of years of hard work and dedication, and depend on an in-depth knowledge of the relevant field. 

The competitors at WorldSkills are the best of the best, and I defy anyone not to be impressed by their level of skills, or by their total concentration and dedication to their work as the crowds (including some very noisy school parties) milled past them with cameras flashing. It was a genuinely emotional experience and it reminded me that working in education means - however indirectly - helping people to achieve their dreams. There can't be many things as rewarding to do with your life.

Anyway, here are some photos of the event. Look out for the sugar sculptures made by the confectionary competitors...

Tiling, in case you were wondering!

I love the hungry gorilla....

...but the giraffe was my favourite.

The work of the Indian entrant in the hairdressing category

I never did find out how you got to volunteer to be the subject for the massage competition...

I found those fake hand things really quite creepy.

Welding! The photos didn't come out as impressive as it looked at the time.

Robotics. I'm not sure what the robot does but it looks terribly clever.

One of about 15 or so gardens that were created over a few days in the middle of the Excel centre. Brilliant.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Brilliant! What an event. I'm so glad that you took the photos and put them up. I got the feeling that I was there too.
I would have loved to see some of the sculptures up close.