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Interview with Hubert Romer Managing Director, WorldSkills Germany; President WorldSkills Europe; and Delegate, WorldSkills International
CEO of WorldSkills Germany, President of WorldSkills Europe, and WorldSkills International delegate – if anyone knows a thing or two about the status quo and trends among the Skills competitors, it’s Hubert Romer. He took the time to speak to CNC4you.
CNC4you: Mr. Romer, looking at the vocational skills championships in the individual countries, it’s plain to see that the competitions have very different meanings in each. Why is that?
Indeed, the differences in the number of participants, the training systems represented and the commitment of the countries are very great. Naturally, the number and quality of the individual professions fluctuates as a function of how relevant and prevalent a given profession is in these countries. Another key reason for these differences, however, is that the competitions are organized in very different ways at a national level. In Switzerland and many European countries, for example, the competitions are affiliated with the Chambers of Industry and Commerce and are financed by business. In Asia, on the other hand, they are considered to be a national sport and are therefore organized and financed by the state.
CNC4you: … and in Germany?
In Germany, particularly within industry, the competitions have not yet taken on the level of importance that would adequately reflect our global economic standing. WorldSkills Germany is a registered association with around 70 members from industry and trade. Companies such as Siemens are doing their bit in this respect, but there’s a lack of major support from the economy and the state. That sets us back somewhat on an international scale.
CNC4you: How do you plan to change that?
We need to raise awareness and appeal to companies and young trainees in a more effective way. As such, we recently drafted a strategy paper and are also driving collaboration with the Skills organizations in Austria and Switzerland. It’s a fact that once companies and craft businesses are on board, they instantly become committed to the cause, so to speak, and take part again and again. I see these competitions as a platform for demonstrating the advantages of our dual training system to the world. And I hope that these skills competitions become the third pillar of training alongside schools and businesses.
CNC4you: Why is that so important?
Learning in a competitive setting is different. Our studies show that participants develop stress-resistance, leadership and decision-making qualities, build character, and form networks among themselves. These are all qualities that companies are desperately looking for today. We monitor the professional biographies of our participants in studies. These have shown that WorldSkills are a career booster, and that you learn from other countries and cultures.
CNC4you: Can you give us an example?
Certainly, a well-known example is the Japanese saw. It’s a standard tool today, including in many European companies. But it was in part thanks to the Asian participants in the Skills competitions that it came to be that way. At present, we are in the process of launching team competitions in the areas of CAD/CNC and separate competitions in the field of digitalization. And I’m sure this will set a precedent in the other countries.
CNC4you: What would you say the advantages are for companies who send their trainees to the competitions?
The list of advantages is long, starting with an advertising boost for the profession and a much higher profile for the company in the region. In Germany, businesses are suffering from a lack of skilled workers, so a higher profile helps to attract young people to the company, and a good reputation as a training company quite simply brings in the business. All of these effects can be proven.
CNC4you: It’s many of the small businesses, however, that are afraid they’ll lose good trainees if they become better known through the competitions. What do you make of these fears?
The experience of the participating companies shows otherwise. The competitions increase trainee commitment. Young skilled workers gain a great deal of additional experience in preparing for and taking part in the competitions, and this makes them a real asset when they go back to the Company.
CNC4you: You have been committed to the Skills championships for a number of years now. Where do you get your energy and drive?
For me, the competitions at an international level represent a real coming together of nations. One of my fondest memories was watching Israelis and Palestinians work together within various skill groups during the WorldSkills competitions and training. I, for one, am 100% behind the idea of these competitions, not least because I’ve seen the fighter mentality that trainees can develop from them. The competitions bring out the best in the trainees, and they have a lot more to give than many older people would like to believe.