WorldSkills organises the world championships of vocational skills, and is held every two years in different parts of the world. The organisation, which also hosts conferences about vocational skills, describes itself as the global hub for skills. The competitions are popularly known as the Olympics of Vocational Skills. It brings together young people, industry, government, education, and institutions, to promote the benefits of and need for skilled trade professionals. The aims of the competition include demonstrating the advantages of learning a vocational skill, and encouraging ‘parity of esteem’ between vocational and academic qualifications. The city of Kazan, Russia, hosted the 45th WorldSkills Competition in 2019.
My journey with Worldskills started more than a year ago. Back then, the competition was something I had chosen to take part in casually, just like I took part various other online design challenges, workshops and projects. Never had I imagined, that it would become such an important part of my journey as a designer and that for more that a year, I would leave everything else just to train for the competition, to dedicate my mind, body and soul to it, and be worthy of the jersey given to me with ‘India’ written on it.
It is a feeling like no other — to be selected to represent a country of 1.4 billion for your skills, to proudly carry the Indian flag on your shoulders while receiving a medal, it’s pretty surreal!
It all first started with selections at my college — National Institute of Design. Two students were selected in this round which was followed by state level, regional level and national level competitions conducted by the National Skill Development Council, Govt of India. Initially, I had little idea about the scale or the importance of the global platform that WorldSkills was providing until the Nationals.
Amidst the competitions in India, all the competitors were made to attend workshops to prepare for the next rounds — because this competition was more that just being able to work as a designer, but the speed, accuracy and industry level finish that was expected in our work was beyond what I was capable of, as a design graduate.
I was really lucky to be selected in the top two chosen candidates after the national round. After this, focused personalised training began for the two of us. We were to have a series of selection rounds in between the rounds of training. This was done to select not only the best candidate, but to also see how much we could improve -if given the proper training and guidance, and then select the candidate with the highest learning curve.
We travelled to Abu Dhabi shortly after the Nationals for our first friendly international competition against similarly selected national candidates from various other countries. Hearing that some participants had been selected as the National candidates over a year ago and have been training since the, was enough to scare both of us. However our performance was still at level with most countries.
Having seen the determined candidates, and the level of competition, we returned to India, resolving to give our best to the training that lay ahead of us.
We were training under the WorldSkills India appointed coach and expert Mr. Sathish Narayanan, our classes would go on for 8–10 hours each day, 6 days a week. We slowly had our selection rounds over the next few months, which was a tough match between both of us. The winner of 2 out the 3 selection rounds was to be taken forward as the final Indian competitor to represent the country.
The judges for the selection rounds were experts and professionals from the design and advertising industry, as well as faculties of various reputed design colleges in India. A new panel was called to judge each round to ensure fairness in the selection.
After getting selected as the final candidate, the training beyond this point not only included design test projects and exercises, but I had to join yoga and meditation classes, start exercising vigorously, and change my diet to adjust to the foreign environment when we travel for the final competition. To be able to perform at our peak at WorldSkills, we needed to be physically and mentally fit as well.
This really helped me later during the actual competition because a lot of other competitors were thrown off by the climate change and had fallen ill during the four days of our test modules.
I also traveled to Russia and Italy for training in the coming months. It gave me a clearer picture as to where I stood as compared to the other candidates, and got me more accustomed to performing well at competitions with time limits under pressure.
I could slowly see myself get better over the months with consistent efforts and attention to my weaknesses and strengths. The same competitors who had bested me in Russia, were head to head in competition with me in Italy, which was only with a difference of one months worth of training.
I stood first in the friendly competition at Italy which gave me confidence that I can bag a medal at WorldSkills later.
Finally the competition dates arrived and the India team set out to Kazan in August.
The Kazan Arena in which our workstations are set up is humongous, because it houses more than 50 different skills and it stretches over an expanse of 74.8 hectares. To even visit the nearest washroom and back is quite a walk. And on top of that, the modules are really intense and the 6 hours of the competition are really crucial and tiring. So it was really important to be fit and have high levels of energy throughout the 4 days of the competition.
As for the test projects related to Graphic Design, it’s not just about how creative you are but about how well you can use the limited time and resources, work with strict restrictions and still come up with innovative ideas for the brief given to you. It’s also about your knowledge of softwares and industry specific technicalities.
While my 4 years of education at the National Institute of Design helped me think creatively and stand out with my ideas, the training provided for WorldSkills helped me use my creative strengths, understand my weaknesses, and strategically work on how to score the maximum marks at the competition.
Candidates from countries like China, France, Russia, etc had been training exclusively for WorldSkills for more than 4 years. Thus, personally, I would say it’s really important that a candidate comes from a design background, because even one year of training seemed inadequate for channelizing my knowledge of Graphic Design and prepare myself to succeed at WorldSkills.
Winning a Bronze medal, I became the first woman from India to have ever received a medal at the WorldSkills Competition.
Lastly, I’m really happy that I learnt so much over the last year, met amazingly talented people, got to visit and explore the cultures of different countries, found friends that I can call family and made some of the best memories of my life!
Do have a look at Team India’s experience at WS2019 and feel the goosebumps for yourself!
Check out my work on https://www.behance.net/shweta_r_