A recent graduate and a current undergraduate student at IFT have claimed medallions of excellence in the latest WorldSkills competition.
The international competition, held every 2 years, is the biggest vocational education and skills tournament in the world. This year’s competition, the 44th edition, was held from 15 to 18 October in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates.
It was the first time the event has been held in the Middle East, and the latest competition was the biggest yet. More than 1,300 competitors representing 59 different parts of the world put 51 different families of skills on show. Team Macau comprised 17 contestants, who showed off their mastery of 15 different skill sets.
Although the tournament is mainly for contestants aged 22 or below, the age limit in some categories is 25. Gold, silver or bronze medals are awarded to the 3 highest-scoring competitors in each category of skill. Competitors scoring 700 or more points out of a maximum of 800 are awarded medallions of excellence.
Team Macao won a gold medal for web design and development. It was the first gold medal won by Macao since it began competing in the WorldSkills competition in 1985. The team also won 6 medallions for excellence.
IFT graduate Noel He won a medallion of excellence for her skill in restaurant service. IFT recently conferred on Noel a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism Event Management. “I learned a lot during preparation for this competition,” she says. “Competition is really different from real-life service, which really surprised me.”
To qualify for the WorldSkills competition, Noel had to win a restaurant service skill contest in Macao. Having qualified, she had to juggle intensive training for the Abu Dhabi tournament with preparing her IFT graduation thesis.
Noel says it was all worthwhile. In Abu Dhabi, she encountered other competitors with different styles of service. Seeing them in action and learning from them will help her build her career, she says.
Intensive training was crucial to the success of IFT student Eva Un, who won a medallion of excellence for her skill in floristry. Eva is studying for a Bachelor’s Degree in Heritage Management.
“I was all at once very happy and terrified when I was competing in Abu Dhabi,” she says. “I knew some rules had changed and so it was more difficult to win a medallion of excellence. You could see that the competitors were really stressed.”
Eva followed a strict training programme from February until the competition, attending training sessions 5 days a week. “Toward the end, we even trained for 8 hours a day, 7 days a week,” she says. “It was really tough.”
The IFT Year 2 student had to recover from some setbacks in Abu Dhabi. Some of the materials she had planned to use for her floral arrangements were unavailable. And she hurt herself cutting a log. “I really wanted to sit down and cry at that moment. But then I thought to myself, ‘I have endured so much for so long, I must persevere’,” she says. “Because of this competition, I’ve learned how to improvise and never to give up.”
IFT academics supported the students as they trained for the WorldSkills competition. IFT Regent for Restaurant and Bar Courses Mr. Miguel Gassmann de Oliveira helped Noel prepare for the event. Mr. Oliveira was also one of the competition judges.
“The competition is an eye-opening experience and is very interesting,” he says. “What we do in a competition is not the same as what we do when working in the industry. Despite the similarities in many respects, contestants in a competition must focus on many special aspects.”
Mr. Oliveira was proud of the enthusiasm and passion for learning shown by Noel. “Whatever she tries to do, she tries to do it well,” he says.
IFT Lecturer Ms. Marieta Wong helped IFT student Renee Ng prepare for the WorldSkills competition. Renee is studying for a Bachelor’s Degree in Culinary Arts Management and took part in the patisserie and confectionery skills category.
Ms. Wong says the competitors learn more than just technical skills. She says participants acquire the ability to face challenges and learn to be resilient yet flexible.
“The competitors meet a lot of people during the training period and the competition, ranging from chefs to government officials to foreign contestants. This is a great chance to build friendships and to learn people skills,” Ms. Wong says. “That’s actually the most important skill that students should gain from the competition.”
The next WorldSkills competition will be held in Kazan, Russia, from 29 August to 3 September 2019. The 2021 competition will be held in Shanghai.