ABU DHABI: Singapore on Thursday (Oct 19) bagged two gold and three bronze medals at the 44th edition of WorldSkills, a biennial global skills competition for youth.
Singapore's two gold medals were in freight forwarding and 3D digital game art - both new additions to the global competition.
21-year-old Ng Jun Xuan, a third-year Nanyang Polytechnic student, won gold in 3D digital game art and emerged as the Best of Nation winner as well.
20-year-old Temasek Polytechnic graduate Olivia Low took home the gold for freight forwarding.
"I was not expecting it at all. I thought I made some mistakes and I just didn't think I was good enough," said Ms Low, who wept for joy atop the podium. She said she had been worried about not being meticulous enough during one of her tests, in which she had to conduct a sales pitch as a representative of a freight forwarding company.
Andrew Tan, 21, clinched a bronze medal in information network and cabling, after he narrowly missed out on being fielded in the 43rd edition of WorldSkills in 2015. He said he had been training to compete for four years.
“Four years is a long time and I can't describe how I feel right now, but the feeling ... it's really shiok," said Mr Tan, who represented Singapore Polytechnic.
The other two bronze medals went to 20-year-old Nanyang Polytechnic graduate Fazira Zulkifli who competed in health and social care; and 19-year-old Li Kangli, a third-year Nanyang Polytechnic student, in IT network systems administration.
"I will help train next batch to retain the medal in this trade," Mr Li said.
Awards are based on a point system of out of 800, and medals are given to the top performers in their trade. This means there could be more than one of each medal.
Singapore also scored eight medallions in various trades such as beauty therapy, cooking and electronics. Medallions are given to competitors who score at least 700 out of the maximum 800 points but did not medal.
Team Singapore comprised 21 competitors from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and the five polytechnics who competed in 19 skill areas over four days.
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, who flew in earlier to support the competitors, said the nation's overall award haul covered diverse trades and showed how well the nation was doing in vocational training.
“To have such a small economy and participate in so many sectors, I think it’s quite amazing that we have the diversity in economic activities that our students are able to be trained in and excel on the world stage,” said Mr Ong. “I think it’s something to be celebrated. I am extremely proud of them.”
This is the first time a Singapore education minister has attended the international WorldSkills competition since the country started taking part in the event in 1995, and Mr Ong said he hoped his presence would help raise the awareness and boost the prestige of vocational trade.
“Vocational trade is actually a very attractive trade and if you go into it with all your heart and soul, society should respect you,” Mr Ong said.
Those with awards will take home cash prizes by SkillsFuture Singapore, ranging from S$1,000 for a medallion of excellence to S$20,000 for a gold medal.
“The team was talking about going out to celebrate together so I’ll pay for it,” gold medallist Mr Ng quipped.
China was the biggest winner this year with 30 medals. South Korea came in second with 24 medals.
The 2017 edition of WorldSkills saw a record of close to 1,300 competitors from about 60 countries and regions, up from the some 1,200 competitors in 2015.
WorldSkills will next be held in Kazan, Russia, in 2019.