Crispin Thorold, WorldSkills International: Our mission is for as many people as possible could find their profession

WorldSkills International representatives held a project session with the organizers of the upcoming vocational skills world championship WorldSkills Kazan 2019 in the capital of Tatarstan. During the break between meetings our reporter talked to Crispin Thorold, Director of Marketing and Communications of WorldSkills International. In an interview with «Gorod A» he spoke about how preparations for the upcoming competitions are underway, how national team members of one country can take part in the national championships of another, and also shared his opinion on the future of WorldSkills competitions.

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This project session, what is it about?

Every few months WorldSkills International comes here to meet our colleagues from WorldSkills Kazan 2019, who responsible for the hosting of the competition next year, and we check in with them about the progress and the project planning in the developments for the hosting of the event.

What is the result of these discussions?

There are ongoing meetings and it’s been a very positive week. We are pleased to see how much progress is being made by both the local organizers here the DSSP in Kazan and also by our colleagues in WorldSkills Russia based in Moscow. There is a lot of work still to be done within less than a year before the starts of the competition, but everything is progressing very well.

As you know, Russia became a member of the WorldSkills movement in 2012, how do you rate this collaboration?

Russia is a relatively new member of WorldSkills. WorldSkills has 79 member countries and regions and I delighted to say that Russia is one of the most active members. They put a bid in to host WorldSkills Kazan 2019 back in 2015 and the membership of WorldSkills voted for this competition, we very impressed with the commitment that Russia has made to vocational skills in the country and has made to the WorldSkills movement. And we delighted that international competition is coming to the Russian Federation, to the Republic of Tatarstan.

What do you expect from upcoming competition?

At the end of August next year you will see around 1500 young people compete to be the World champions in around 50 skills. We are going to see these youngsters come from across the World to Russia and to show that they are the very best in the World at different skills. The range of skills is very wide: anything from carpentry, bricklaying to floristry, baking, cooking, very Hi-Tech skills, mobile robotics. Whole range of different skills across 6 sectors. And all these people will come to Kazan next year and we will find out in the end of the competition who are the best young people around the World at these skills.

Директор по маркетингу и коммуникациям WorldSkills International Криспин Торольд на проектной встрече в Казани. / WSI Director of Marketing and Communications Crispin Thorold during the project session in Kazan.

Members of the Russian national team have the right to participate in national championships in other countries, for example, Yaroslav Velikanov won WorldSkills Australia 2018 in the Graphic Design sector. How does it work?

Every WorldSkills member has a national competition. In Russia you have local, regional, national competitions and the task of all these national competitions is to find the very best in your country to compete in the international competition. But even once you found the best competitor in your country you still need to train them, you need to give them opportunities to perform their skills with other people. And a lot of WorldSkills members provide the opportunity to other countries to bring competitors to the national competitions. And it is really a training exercise. So you go to a competition, as you mentioned, in Australia, you go to competition in Korea, you may meet competitors from different countries there and train them to ensure can become the best in their skills when it comes to the WorldSkills competition. And more globally WorldSkills competition is an opportunity for countries to benchmark, to compare their vocational training systems with one another.

In Russia we have competitive skills designed for universities at the WorldSkills national championship and they not included in the World Championship program. Is WorldSkills going to include university skills to the World Championship?

Our focus is on vocational skills, in most skills it’s up to 23 years old, it’s the age of the competitors. Lots of different members have different approaches. For example, there are young school children who are competing in skills competitions, Russia is about to start a competition for people over 50 years old. So it varies from country to country and our mission is for as many people as possible to find their skills, to discover the difference that a skill can make to their ally, that skills can make to their communities and their countries. However, competitions are focused on 18-23 year olds.

Is there something like this in other countries?

As I say some members do that. So I gave the example of the school children’s competitions as well. It varies from country to country and every WorldSkills member sets their competitions in the way that they need to have them to ensure that progress and training that they want in their country. So it depends on the needs of individual member country.

Директор по маркетингу и коммуникациям WorldSkills International Криспин Торольд на проектной встрече в Казани. / WSI Director of Marketing and Communications Crispin Thorold during the project session in Kazan.

How does WorldSkills work with education providers? Do they change their educational programmes to make them closer to WorldSkills standards?

A lot of WorldSkills members are government departments responsible for delivering vocational education and skills training in their countries, not every WorldSkills member, but a lot are. The relationships that exists, exists on the national level and we have the WorldSkills standards, specifications which are a list of competencies that are required to reach excellence within skill and some countries, including Russia, are choosing to use those standards to help in the structuring of the training systems in their countries.

What are preparations for the upcoming competitions?

The preparations for the competitions are a long list of major events. We had in our last competition a hundred and fifty thousand people visiting event in Abu Dhabi. The project preparations are now being ongoing in Kazan for a couple of years and, as you would expect, very similar to a major sporting event, whether it’s FIFA or FINA World Championship, the Universiade games events that Kazan has hosted already. And so in many ways the preparations are very similar, it’s just the vocational skills competitions rather than sports events.

But you have to deliver all the goods, all the equipment and products that needed by the competition’s participants, tool boxes, for example. Isn’t it more difficult?

The infrastructure put on the WorldSkills competition is very large. So the first thing is to put the infrastructure for the competition. For example, if you have a carpentry competition, you need lots of different types of wood. Each competition has a test project, something that the competitors have to produce, and that test project requires the purchases or sponsors to provide the infrastructure to make that test project. In addition, competitors bring in the tool boxes they been working and training with from outside the country to the competition. So, in Abu Dhabi, the last competition, we had in a region of a million pieces of infrastructure that was procured for the event. It’s very large and complex competition, but equally we are looking and dealing with 50 skills, it’s such a broad range of vocational skills.

Директор по маркетингу и коммуникациям WorldSkills International Криспин Торольд на проектной встрече в Казани. / WSI Director of Marketing and Communications Crispin Thorold during the project session in Kazan.

At nowadays lathe operator, for example, must know how to work with numerical control systems. And computer skills in common and, especially programming skills, are required in numerous areas, whereas previously it was different specialties. Do you think what WorldSkills can become more and more about machinery, robotics and IT?

WorldSkills constantly looks at the skills that we have competitions in to ensure that they remain relevant to industry developments. And we have very good relationships with industry. And among the things that happening in Kazan what is particularly interesting is that we have a series of skills competitions around FutureSkills. It is about skills that already exist, but they also can be even more relevant in the future. And that is very important for training systems, because they have to ensure that students are leading with the right skills for the marketplace that needed by companies, but it’s also very important for WorldSkills that we keep our links with some more traditional skills. For example, we still have a competition in architectural stonemasonry, as well as having a competition in FutureSkills category in block chain. So we have that large range from very traditional skills that people were doing thousands years ago to future skills that only emerged in recent years.

Crispin Thorold has been the Head of Marketing, Communications and PR for WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017. Before joining WorldSkills International he has worked as a BBC foreign correspondent based in the Middle East and South Asia. Crispin specialized in conflict journalism and reported from more than twenty countries on four continents. After the BBC he launched, edited and presented a daily TV news programme for Abu Dhabi TV. Crispin has worked for leading not-for-profit and international organizations and also advised and consulted charities on marketing and communications.

Interviewed by Timur Galiev
Photo: Igor Galiev