WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017: Showcasing the best of the world's young artisans

This October in Abu Dhabi, a team from Mitutoyo UK was privileged to support a large proportion of around 1,300 young people representing almost 60 countries competing in the WorldSkills 2017 competition. This was the 44th version of the biggest vocational skills competition in the world, the stated aim of which is to inspire young people to study technical education and vocational skills for entrepreneurship or for their future career. The diversity on display ranged from social occupations like health care to creative skills such as cooking, confectionery, hairdressing, videogame and web design; from services like tiling and landscape gardening to the manufacturing intricacies of welding, CNC machining and mechatronics. For many participants, this event is considered one of the most important and demanding challenges in their young lives.

Mitutoyo, being one of the lead sponsors and a metrology specialist, provided about 1,800 measuring tools for use by individual competitors in almost a third of the competitions. Among these tools were Digimatic calipers; outside, inside and depth micrometers; indicators; height gauges and granite surface plates, among many others. Additional support in the form of sophisticated measuring machines, complete with experienced Mitutoyo operators, was also made available to the manufacturing technology competitions.

Staged at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) in the heart of the city, it was the first time that the WorldSkills event has been held in the Middle East. Performing their competitive tasks in 51 categories under six overarching skill sectors and within sight of the impressive Capital Gate leaning - tower skyscraper, the participants presented a spectacle of some of the world‘s most talented young people showing what they could do in their chosen vocation. More than 100,000 spectators were captivated with the skills on display over the course of this spectacular biannual event that brought together these elite young adults, the majority of whom were 22 years of age or younger, who had qualified for WorldSkills via national and continental contests.

The high-accuracy metrology support so necessary to the competition was a vital part of the Mitutoyo team’s role and thousands of machined workpieces were diligently measured. This involved the competitors’ workpieces being brought to Mitutoyo’s large display stand, located right in the centre of the Manufacturing and Engineering Technology area, for correct - size verification on one of the four highly accurate Crysta-Apex S Coordinate Measuring Machines. Surface finish was also a quality factor to be taken into consideration and Mitutoyo Surftest SJ - 410 surface roughness testers were on hand to measure this important parameter. Overall, the Mitutoyo team was responsible for measuring workpieces in seven different competitions.

Timing, rules and regulations were very strict. Most competitions provided materials, workplace, tools and instruments. Some competitions, however, demanded that teams bring their own gear and materials. “This is always strictly controlled”, said Jacob Parker a British competitor. “Those who try to use pre-machined or assembled workpieces are harshly penalised, or even disqualified from the competition”. The 21-year-old was taking part in the ‘Manufacturing Team Challenge’, which involved building a remotely controlled mobile robot vehicle capable of automatically handling an acrylic glass cube or cylinder. The overall score for this competition was built up from numerous tests and trials on the robot. Apart from meeting the requirements of the technical specifications, cost efficiency was also an important factor with the amount of material used by the team of three counting, as well as the time spent using machine tools. “We have been very fast and precise so far, and are well up in the field”, said Parker during the contest, hoping for a top-ranking position, “but it will be a hard fight against Team China.”

At one stage, loud cheering and ringing of cowbells echoed from the other end of the hall: Team Switzerland were applauding their Mechatronics competitor who had mastered a task extraordinarily well and gained a lot of ground in the contest. The team spirit of the participants was always impressively high, as was shown during the opening ceremony when loud cheering by their delegates, experts, family and friends accompanied the teams in the parade of nations.

During the last day of the competition Jacob Parker was visibly frustrated as he described the driving test on their robot. The right - side caterpillar track had co me off, spinning the vehicle in circles. This meant a huge point s deduction and the top rankings were practically out of reach now. “During our own tests everything had been in perfect working order”, he said. This highlighted the reality that victory and defeat are never far apart at WorldSkills. “We are very disappointed because we could have done much better, but life goes on”, added his team mate Jake Green, philosophically. After all, they had taken part in the WorldSkills competition and that is a success in itself as it rates them among the best newcomers in their vocation, worldwide - that achievement alone was well worth the effort.

“Supporting our youth is of high significance for Mitutoyo”, says UK Director Martin Weeks who coordinates Mitutoyo’s WorldSkills activities. “Mitutoyo stands in line with the WorldSkills vision to raise awareness among youth − as well as their parents, teachers and employers − that our future depends on an effective skills training system.“