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‘Meet The Champions of Excellence’: Celebrating the talent of 400 Young People in Brussels


“Meet the Champions of Excellence”, a flagship event of the European Year of Skills, jointly organized by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the European Commission, took place in Brussels on Friday 23 February. It gathered about 500 participants, including some 400 young people from across Europe and other stakeholders (teachers, in-company trainers, EESC members, EC representatives and civil society organisations). 

The event highlighted the value of vocational education and training (VET) as an effective learning and career path to quality jobs. It aimed to inspire young people, notably by interacting with 35 young champions from recent WorldSkills and Euroskills competitions, as well as from Abylimpics (Work Skill Olympics for people with disabilities). Garikoitz Mujika, a champion of excellence in mechanics and 3D printing the Basque Country (holding EARLALL’s Presidency), participated at the plenary and explained how he combined work with studies and encouraged young people to feel confident with their abilities.

The event also involved high-level plenary sessions, stands on VET and skills demonstrations and four parallel workshops: 1) Opportunities for Learning mobility abroad,  2) Fighting gender stereotypes in VET, 3) SkillSet 4.0: Skills for today’s and tomorrow’s opportunities in the EU and 4) Together for a digital and sustainable future). One of the 20 stands that showcased innovation developed by VET, such as mechanical engineering or robot system integration, was the Basque VET Centre San Jorge that successfully presented its Hydrogen machine.

During the panel discussion, Commissioner Nicolas Schmit and EESC President Oliver Röpke exchanged with the champions and talked about VET excellence and the essential role of VET in seizing current and future opportunities. Commissioner Schmit expressed concern about the 8 million young Europeans who are not in education or employment, and highlighted that every person has a talent and that young people are at the heart of Europe’s policies. Given the current shortage of labour in Europe, we have to value everyone’s contribution. He also explained how he was impressed by the motivation, creativity and team spirit that he experienced during the Euroskills competitions that he attended. He highlighted that mobility should also be encouraged and should be part of learning and gaining a true European experience. Laurence Gates, CEO of WorldSkills Europe, explained that Skills are for everybody and there is no one unique route to success. Higher Education and VET are not opposed and offer opportunities that young people can take depending on their interests and motivation. You can find out more here: https://year-of-skills.europa.eu/meet-champions-excellence_en

Isabel Ladrón Arroyo, Policy Officer in DG EMPL for microcredentials and inclusivity in VET, with EARLALL Director Noelia Cantero and Basque Champion Garikoitz Mujika
Basque VET Centre San Jorge that successfully presented its Hydrogen machine