Endurance, specialist Expertise – and a great deal of passion for the job: Those who have this can pass the “WorldSkills“. This is the name of the “World Cup of Jobs”, at which specialists from all over the world compete for medals every two years. In 2017, I also went to the starting line as a freshly baked vehicle mechatronics specialist from Daimler. Four nerve-wracking days in the Abu Dhabi heat: What an experience!
From tile layers to florists: In 2017, around 1,300 participants from 59 countries in 51 disciplines went to the starting line – all aged 25 and under, and the world’s best in their specialty. The idea of the World Cup of Jobs is very simple: Every two years, it brings together apprentices and young specialists from all over the world, and thus creates awareness of the opportunities offered by vocational training.
The second purpose behind it: To connect young people worldwide and replace preconceived notions and misunderstandings with friendly relationships and shared enthusiasm for the job. The event has been a huge success for many years.
But, when my trainers approached me and asked if I would like to participate, I didn’t know any of this. “Of course”, I said. I had no idea of the dimension of the whole thing. I had just completed my apprenticeship as vehicle mechatronics specialist in the Munich branch.
The first leg: Erfurt
My World Cup discipline was in heavy vehicle technology. In spring of 2017, it was already decided that I will go along to the capitol of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, as a representative of Germany – and in April, I already traveled to Erfurt for the first preparatory meeting. “Team Germany” had two days to get to know each other.
The team was made up of 42 young specialists from almost all German states. The youngest participant was only 17 – and even won bronze in the end. This is where I also met my personal trainer, who prepared me incredibly well during the preparatory stage and accompanied me during the competition.
All set for the desert trip
The weeks and months after that were filled with team meetings, diagnostics training and practice training sessions for working with the exercise objects. One of the tasks in the competitions would be to detect faults in the hydraulic system of a mini excavator, among other things. For this, everything had to run smoothly. As the date of the world championship approached, I became more and more excited and nervous.
The time then finally arrived in fall: First, we traveled to Frankfurt in order to meet again as a team, and then finally got on the plane to Abu Dhabi. It’s a crazy feeling, not knowing what to expect …
Pretzels and Bach for the guests from Germany
Even before the start of the competitions, we were overwhelmed by the hospitality: The “One School One Country” project, founded by the WorldSkills Organization, invited us to visit a private school in the capitol city. The school kids and the teachers had prepared for the visit for two years and had learned about all facets of life in Germany.
Everyone was so friendly and forthcoming! I had never before experienced anything like this. Every single room and wall was decorated with German flags. The kids had baked pretzels and played Bach pieces for us. The absolute madness.
In the evening, all competitors – as the participants are called – were treated to the “Desert Experience”: a welcome event in the middle of the desert with workshops on the topic of culture and a huge buffet of local food delicacies.
The excitement was growing
After this relaxed start, things got more serious from day to day. What was needed now were strong nerves. I could think of nothing but the upcoming competitions – and suddenly had second thoughts. Could it be that the preparatory period was too short? But, the second thought prevailed: I was already considered to be one of the best mechatronics specialists in Germany, and maybe the whole world.
The first emotional highlight was the opening celebration in the arena in Yas Island. Each country walked in as a team. And visitors from all over the world could watch. At that moment, the results didn’t really matter! The WorldSkills bring together many people from different countries, who have one thing in common: the passion for their job.
Stretched to the limit
The first day of the competition in my discipline – Skill 49: “Heavy Vehicle Maintenance” – started with a really simple task. As one of 16 finalists, I had to find reference values for vehicles on a computer with the help of workshop literature. In the days that followed, the difficulty level of the tasks rose rapidly. I almost reached my limit.
For example, I had to do a search for electrical defects on a road roller, which is something that is relatively easy to solve on a normal work day. But, the competition took a lot more than just the technical know-how out of me. I remember a saying by a sports psychologist who supported us in Abu Dhabi:
70 percent of a competition is in your head.
How right he was.
Give up? Never
Later, this really became clear to me: During the last two days, I again did my absolute best. Because I had learned one thing: “Never give up!”
When the gong sounded at the last station, all the tension was suddenly gone, it was as if it was blown away. In the end, it wasn’t enough for a place on the Podium – but, for me, the fun of the great experience and the knowledge I had collected, were more important. Team Germany did great overall, with one silver, two bronze and 19 so-called “excellence” medals.
With the farewell party and the winners’ ceremony, the world championship ended just as energetically as it had started. After a brief goodbye, we were already sitting in the plane on the way back home, or “Dahoam”, as we say in Bavaria.
The apprenticeship as door opener
This experience was the most incredible time in my life and changed a lot for me. And what was the door opener? My apprenticeship at Daimler.
That is why I would like to very heartily thank all of the many supporters – my workshop, my trainers, the instructors in the diagnostics courses, all the helpful experts and, of course, also my family and friends, as well as everyone who kept their fingers crossed for the awesome opportunity and support!
Pictures by Frank Erpinar