Two of the UAE’s most accomplished and celebrated young role models addressed a gathering of youths from around the world for the launch of WorldSkills Abu Dhabi in the capital on Saturday.
UAE Minister of State for Youth Affairs Shamma Al Mazrui and Genes in Space winner Alia Al Mansoori followed ACTVET director-general Mubarak Al Shamsi in welcoming the young delegates to the inaugural International TVET Youth Forum.
The two-day forum, which is being held for the first time in parallel with the vocational skills competition, challenges the youngsters to brainstorm ideas on how to tackle global challenges related to the skills of the future and technical and vocational education and training.
The 300 forum participants, who are between ages 17 to 32 years, will work in groups focused on six themes - innovation, industry 4.0, entrepreneurship, global citizenship, green economy and happiness and tolerance – and present a collective “youth declaration” to the ministers convening for a meeting this week at WorldSkills.
“What you do here this weekend will go down in history,” the UAE Minister of State for Youth Affairs told the audience. “Our job for today is to go for the gold – yet not while competing against one another, but by blending our stories, our ideas, our talents, our energies and our challenges and add our voices into a declaration and action plan for the future of world skills.”
The forum’s members have spent the past six weeks exchanging ideas through an online forum that has generated more than 3,500 messages, said Mr Al Shamsi.
“We promised to present your ideas to international ministers and stakeholders,” he said. “In two days, we will have many international ministers attending the WorldSkills conference. They are eager to learn from you and to get inspired by you.
"However, your work does not end here. On the contrary, your new declaration is the first step towards a bigger and broader mission. You are now the ambassadors for this youth declaration. This youth declaration – the first of its kind – is about the future of skills, your future. So let’s make this first international TVET youth forum memorable and impactful.”
The Emirate’s most famous aspiring young astronaut, Alia, spoke to her peers about her experiences after winning the Genes In Space competition and her dreams of becoming the first person to set foot on Mars. The 15-year-old said she finds inspiration to chase her audacious dream in the leadership of the UAE.
“Here, in this piece of land exactly, around 60 years ago, it was merely just a desert and an ocean and that was it, but someone saw more than just sand and water,” said Alia.
“This person, Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan, he saw more than just the sand, he saw more than just the ocean. He saw a country, he saw a people, he saw the future.”
The UAE is now, “the happiest and most ambitious, most futuristic country in the world,” said Alia, “and we are very, very happy to be living here".
The WorldSkills competition has been held every two years since 1950 to promote and develop the skilled trades and vocational education.
Beginning on Sunday, nearly 1,300 competitors between the ages of about 17 and 25 years representing 59 countries will face off for four days in one of 51 skills-testing challenges ranging from aircraft maintenance to welding. The UAE boasts the largest Arab team, with 34 competitors, including nine girls, competing in 31 skills challenges.
“The world is increasingly beginning to believe that for a successful world, a successful economy, for a successful business, we need a blend of academic and vocationally trained individuals in the workplace,” said Simon Bartley, president of WorldSkills International.
But in addition to promoting TVET, the competition is also meant to foster cross-cultural exchange and understanding, Mr Bartley said. This 44th edition will be the first time that WorldSkills is hosted by a country in the MENA region.
“Our members believe that moving this great event, as we have done 44 times, around the world is critically important so that the young people – together with their teachers, their parents, their families, the experts that we have – experience different cultures,” said Mr Bartley.
“We looked to see what is happening around the world in order that we can ensure that the youth of today who are the adults of tomorrow are actually more understanding than their parents and their grandparents about what a different culture means in the 21st century. If we are to have a higher level of peace and a lower level of conflict in the world in our futures, we need to ensure that the youth all over the world come together and see how much more they have in common than they are different.”
The inaugural International TVET Youth Forum, launched by Abu Dhabi, will also help to bridge the cultural gap and address the vocational skills challenges of the future, he said.
“We have 300 young people who will exchange their hopes and dreams with each other so that when they go home they are better educated about different understandings of our world,” said Mr Bartley. “Whilst the adults and the ministers can change things today, it is the youth who will change things for the future.”