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A test of skill - 22/09/2008

Graphic designer in front of computer screen

The EU’s first trade skills contest highlights skills shortages on European job market.

More than 400 young people from 30 countries competed in EuroSkills 2008, open to students and recent graduates of vocational school and training programmes. Held in Rotterdam on 18-20 September, it drew an estimated 40 000 visitors.

Dozens of trades were featured, from traditional crafts such as carpentry and bricklaying to information-age jobs like robotics and web design. All these lines of work need more skilled workers - not easy to find on today’s job market.

A number of EU countries have organised skills contests, but this was the first to be held at European level. The event was funded by the EU, which wants to promote excellence and raise the profile of vocational education and training.

The EU economy is expected to create some 13 million jobs over the next eight years, according to the latest forecast . But nowadays even basic jobs require considerable knowhow and companies might have a hard time filling those positions. The workforce is shrinking and ageing and even where there are enough workers, they don't always have the right qualifications.

There was no shortage of skilled workers at the event in Rotterdam. Many had already competed in similar competitions in their home country and around the world. Dáneil Bolla, an engineering technician from Hungary, won two competitions in his country last year and also did well in Japan’s WorldSkills competition. He specialises in mechatronics, a cross between mechanical and electronic engineering.

“Mechatronics is a complex skill,” he said. “I like electronics, IT and pneumatics too, and mechatronics is a mix of these skills.”

Part contest, part job fair, the event was a chance to link up with potential employers and check out vocational schools and training programmes. Visitors could watch the contestants at work and try their hand at giving an injection, making a rucksack, welding a nametag and programming a robot.

For those who missed the debut, the organisers are looking to make EuroSkills a regular event, held in a different country every two years.

Other EU initiatives to promote vocational education include a conference for apprentices, to be held in Paris in October. It is part of an effort to create a European exchange programme for apprentices.

Leonardo da Vinci – EU programme for vocational education and training

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