Designed to showcase the skills of young people across the nation, the WorldSkills Barbados competition has now become much more ??? and it???s only in its second year.??The biennial competition is part of WorldSkills International, which was created to promote and highlight the technical and vocational skills of talented youth across the globe in nearly 50 skills sectors.

Five skills sectors were offered for Barbados??? inaugural WorldSkills in 2012- a significant achievement, says Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Council Officer and Competition Coordinator, Paul Puckerin.?????The TVET Council was very pleased with the first WorldSkills Barbados competition. I think we surpassed our expectations; it allowed us to give young people the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and partner with training providers at a different level,??? he said.

It also presented aspiring students, specialising in culinary arts, garment making, beauty therapy, hair dressing and automotive technology, the opportunity to perform at their best at what is referred to as the ???skills Olympics???. Although new to the WorldSkills scene, participating students made Barbados proud, on both the local and regional stage. Mr. Puckerin explained that the competition was well received by participants; and also had some unexpected but pleasant outcomes.

???We saw many young people coming out of the competition [and] gaining exposure,??? the Competition Coordinator said. ???We had Gaynelda Grazette, who, although she didn???t win the garment making segment, went on to launch her own [clothing] line??? and became a young entrepreneur. We saw Clesita Moore, who was the most outstanding competitor, able to go on to do further training in the Orlando Premier Nail and Hair Show, which allowed her to gain significant exposure in the field of hair and cosmetology,??? he asserted.

Akeila Chapman, who was in winners row at WorldSkills Barbados, placed second in the national Hairdressing category and went on to represent Barbados at the regional championships.?????She represented us in Brazil at WorldSkills Americas and returned with a silver medal [and Best of Nation award]. That placed Barbados on the map???We also had Sad?? Atkins- she was given a one-year attachment with the Crane Hotel and???right now she is in Canada continuing further training in the field of culinary arts,??? Mr. Puckerin disclosed.

The TVET Officer added that while Ms. Chapman continues to pursue her love of hairdressing, WorldSkills Barbados winner in Automotive Technology, Tevin Callender, ???gained full-time employment upon completion of his studies, with a local car dealership. And I???m pleased to report that he???s still there and they???re very pleased with his work.???

Mr. Puckerin said it was gratifying to be a part of WorldSkills since participants could see the fruits of their labour, but noted that there were also benefits to be had for training providers.?????[WorldSkills] has allowed them to become more enthusiastic and so they are on board by encouraging their students to do better. They are looking at revamping their different skills programmes to accommodate some of the areas that could not have been offered when we hosted the first WorldSkills competition.

???We still think that we need to improve some of the offerings in terms of the skill areas,??? Mr. Puckerin added. ???Currently, not all of our training providers give the same level of training right across the spectrum. So, we had to modify the areas to suit what we deliver in Barbados [for the first competition]; but we recognise that if we are going to send more representatives to [regional WorldSkills] in the future, all the trainers will have to raise the bar in what programmes are offered,??? he said, adding that this would benefit local training in the long run.

In addition to holding the competition over four days instead of three, WorldSkills Barbados has undergone other changes.?????We have expanded the offering to private sector organisations to be part of the competition. When we did the first one, we only extended it to the three training institutions ??? the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic (SJPP), the Barbados Vocational Training Board and the Barbados Community College. This year, we???ve invited the Semaj School of Cosmetology and Trichology to participate,??? Mr. Puckerin explained.

If last year???s competition is any indication, employers are also set to gain from WorldSkills Barbados 2014, Mr. Puckerin said, adding that it was his view that the competition has the potential to eventually be a scouting event for businesses.?????WorldSkills Barbados allows employers to see what the training providers are doing. I know very often we want people who not only come with theoretical knowledge but have the requisite skills, and WorldSkills is a prime platform that all employers should come out and see,??? he noted, adding that skills training meant persons ???hit the ground running??? in the workplace.

Although this will only be the second time around for WorldSkills Barbados, it is hoped that other skills such as carpentry, electrical installation and webpage design would be offered in the future. ???But, as you can appreciate,??? Mr. Puckerin said, ???the cost factor and the facilities to deliver them were not accessible at this stage.

???However, by [forging] employer partnerships, we could explore more skill areas to give more young people that opportunity to showcase what they???re learning and what they can do,??? he offered. The TVET Council Senior Officer also said that they would like to send a competitor in each category to Worldskills Americas, but work still needs to be done and finances secured.

???At present, we are not able to do that because very often, we???ve had to scale down the skill areas because the students are not taught to the level as required by the [international competition]. For sure, we know that beauty therapy and cosmetology are meeting that mark and culinary arts; but we want to move to the point that all skill areas that we offer are in line with what is being taught in our institutions,??? he asserted, adding that WorldSkills provided a benchmark that would prepare students to work anywhere in the world.

The garment making, beauty therapy, automotive technology and hairdressing segments of WorldSkills Barbados 2014 will be held at the SJPP from Wednesday, March 12, to Friday, March 14, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; while the culinary arts segment will be hosted at the Dining Club, Newton Industrial Park, Christ Church, on Saturday, March 15, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. In addition to the competition, career guidance services will also be offered. The competition is free and open to members of the public.

For additional information, persons may visit or contact the TVET Council at 435-3096.

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