The world celebrates vocational qualifications this week. A thousand of the brightest and best from around the planet have gathered in Leipzig, Germany, to battle it out to be crowned the "Best in the World" at their chosen profession. This is the 42nd and the biggest yet WorldSkills International competition - where young, skilled professionals from more than 50 nations are represented.
With Apprenticeships high on the agenda both in the UK, around Europe and the rest of the world, it is fitting that we celebrate those high achievers who have proved themselves in national competitions and are now representing their countries on a global stage. The UK is right there, among them, competing with the best the world has to offer, and I am proud to say several members of the team have gone through EAL engineering and manufacturing qualifications.
There are 34 members of WorldSkills Team UK at the five day event in German Saxony, from July 2-7. They are showcasing their skills through a range of challenges specific to their professions, such as producing the best engineering solutions, machining the finest products, devising the best plumbing scenarios and expertly servicing vehicles. They are competing in categories ranging from mechatronics to milling, welding to floristry, painting and decorating to beauty therapy.
As a platform to raise the profile of vocational qualifications worldwide, WorldSkills International is unparalleled.
Looking closer to home, here in the UK, we must combat negative perceptions of Apprenticeships. Other nations celebrate their apprentices far more than we do in Britain. We must follow the lead of countries like Korea and Germany, who treat their apprentices like rock stars. In Britain there are still too many schools and parents that are far too reticent to help their young charges explore the vocational route - they are almost squeamish about it. It stems from the long-held belief that university is the only way to go to get a decent education. Apprentices are the achievers of this generation - they earn and learn - then embark on world-class careers. We need to cherish and nurture them if Britain is to recover from the economic downturn.
WorldSkills Leipzig 2013 is not only a great showcase of top, but also a learning opportunity for countries like Britain to take note of how well supported and thought of apprentices and vocational learners are in other countries. We must do the same and encourage young people interested in pursuing Apprenticeships to enter into careers in engineering, manufacturing or building services, for example.
As a gesture of our support for WorldSkills Team UK, we have a media team based in Leipzig producing lots of news and video footage from the event and sharing it online. We also have a dedicated YouTube channel where you can see WorldSkills Team UK parading through a packed auditorium for the amazing Opening Ceremony as well as exclusive interviews from the President of WorldSkills International and more.
So please join me in supporting Team UK at WorldSkills Leipzig and celebrating apprentices and other vocational learners in the UK. They are the future and it is time we started shouting about their achievements.