Northern Ireland vocational skills students have once again showcased their abilities on the national and global stage.
Five local students competed as part of Team UK in the global WorldSkills Competition 2022 Special Edition, while 63 NI learners took part in the WorldSkills UK finals, securing Northern Ireland's best ever result. Furthermore, Southern Regional College finished as the highest performing further education college in the UK.
The Department for the Economy today held a reception in Parliament Buildings, Belfast, to congratulate the local students who competed at both events, held late last year.
Speaking after the reception, attended by students, as well as representatives from the FE colleges and private training providers, Heather Cousins, DfE's Head of Skills and Education, said:
"It is hugely pleasing to see that, once again, local vocational skills learners are competing, and succeeding, on the national and international stages.
"Northern Ireland participants made up one in seven of the UK team that competed in the global WorldSkills Special Edition event, proportionally more than any other UK region. The team placed tenth in the world, a highly creditable effort.
"And from the UK competition our local students brought home 10 gold, 10 silver and eight bronze medals, as well as five highly commended awards, putting Northern Ireland second place in the UK, our best ever outcome. Local participants always do well in WorldSkills competitions but this year they have outdone themselves - well done!"
Ms Cousins continued:
"I am also especially encouraged that Southern Regional College finished as the top-performing UK FE college - quite the honour in a very strong field and a further endorsement of our local FE sector.
"I congratulate all NI participants on their tremendous efforts. I also pay tribute to the hard work and dedication of teaching staff in the colleges and private training providers. This success in what are very high quality competitions highlights the quality of the vocational skills teaching offering that is available to local learners, right across Northern Ireland."
Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE, CEO of WorldSkills UK, also attended the reception. He said:
"I am enormously proud to be able to congratulate in person the fantastic participants from Northern Ireland who have demonstrated yet again that they are amongst the very best in their chosen field in the UK and the world. They and their teaching staff in the colleges and private training providers can be very proud of their achievements.
"This performance gives us a fantastic platform to work with our partners across Northern Ireland to maintain the focus on world-class skills development.
"We will use the international benchmarking insights gained from our global network in WorldSkills to help raise standards in higher technical education and apprenticeships, so that more investors and employers know that young people in Northern Ireland have got they skills they need to succeed."
The WorldSkills Competition 2022 Special Edition replaced the usual Skills Olympics and saw more than 1,000 young people participate in 62 skills competitions, held over 12 weeks in 15 countries.
For more information on WorldSkills, visit the WorldSkills UK website.