[Sponsored article] Hong Kong made history at the WorldSkills Competition 2022 Special Edition, with a record haul of medals at the event, held between September and November last year. The 30-strong team celebrated a gold medal in Visual Merchandising – Hong Kong’s third gold since joining the competition in 1997 – and 12 medallions for excellence in 3D Digital Game Art, Cloud Computing, Digital Construction, Fashion Technology, Hairdressing, Information Network Cabling, Mobile Applications Development, Mobile Robotics, Mechatronics, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning, Restaurant Service and Welding. The Vocational Training Council (VTC) said the success not only highlights the talent of the team, but also represents a new chapter in vocational and professional education and training (VPET) in Hong Kong. The VTC believes this success will inspire more young people to consider VPET as a path to a chosen career. More than 1,000 skilled young people from over 50 countries and regions took part in the event, where they competed for medals across a wide and challenging range of disciplines. The competition, often called the “Skills Olympics” and organised every two years by WorldSkills International, is the biggest vocational education event in the world, showcasing the best in skills. It aims to increase awareness of vocational education and skills training worldwide. Kaitlyn Leung Ka-yu, a Higher Diploma in Design graduate of Hong Kong Design Institute’s (HKDI) Event, Exhibition and Performance programme, experienced the thrill of competing in an international competition and appearing on the world stage. Her applied skills in design won her Hong Kong’s first-ever gold medal in Visual Merchandising from the competition, hosted in Sweden. “Within 21 hours, I needed to create an eye-catching visual display from scratch, selling sports shoes,” Leung says. “From interpreting and researching a brief, to designing and implementation, I was applying a wide range of skills obtained during my training at HKDI.” Visual merchandising starts with a clear grasp of the brief. Through market analysis, a creative rationale is developed, with design drawing and details added to the storyboard. It is a complex form of spatial art, orchestrating skills such as design sketching, colour matching, oil painting, carpentry, lighting and the construction and display of the products. Adding to the time pressure of the four-day competition, the brief required a highly specific attention to detail. “The judges specified a colour to be used, as well as compulsory props and second-hand furniture to promote sustainability. As a participant, we all had different scenarios to address, so there were plenty of surprises to challenge us,” Leung says. “Kaitlyn demonstrated thoughtful storytelling that placed the shoes as a hero product,” says Leo Chan, senior lecturer at HKDI’s department of Architecture, Interior and Product Design, and also the competition’s chief expert in Visual Merchandising. “Her craftsmanship, judgment and self-management were the keys to her success in the competition.” Participants were marked on an assessment scheme across 113 items. “There were objective factors such as demonstration of techniques on curve cutting, wood joints and finishing, as well as work safety. There were also subjective points for overall aesthetics and tidiness of the environment,” he says. Thanks to her intensive training at HKDI over the last two years, Leung has not only developed her talents in visual merchandising, but also a mindset that helps her face challenges in a calm, strategic manner. “I have worked on multiple mocked-up scenarios, as well as helping real brands on visual merchandising,” she says. “I learned to do mind-mapping under stress, and pace myself to systematically manage time to five-minute slots. There are many calculations going on in my head when I work. I care about details and perfection, consider my strengths and limitations, and select points where I can take risks.” These skills and mindsets have proven invaluable to Leung, who has since graduated and become an exhibition designer. Ng Sin-ching, a Higher Diploma graduate in Cloud and Data Centre Administration at the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (IVE), was also awarded a medallion for excellence for his outstanding skill in Cloud Computing – Hong Kong’s first time competing in the trade. Ng competed over four days in South Korea, completing a project that required competitors to set up virtual servers for a website able to withstand high peaks of traffic yet requiring minimal resources. The competitors also worked on reverse engineering to fix infrastructure problems. “The competition was challenging as it was all-rounded,” Ng says. “It included techniques from setting up a server cluster with the function of auto-scaling to machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and internet security.” Wong Chun-yin, a senior lecturer in the Department of Information Technology at IVE, says Ng’s preparation for the competition, in which he studied the criteria and technology of the tasks in depth, was a key factor in his win. “From programming to cloud set-up, he became conversant with many areas related to IT. He was able to accomplish different challenging tasks,” Wong says. “During the competition, participants were given a web ‘attack’ scenario. They were required to work out solutions leveraging their cloud computing knowledge and skills. Completing the task with the least amount of time and cost was the match point.” Ng says his studies with IVE have given him a clearer direction in his career path. He has established a tech start-up and says the WorldSkills Competition has provided him with an eye-opening experience and new opportunities for collaboration, as he got to know young professionals from other countries – sharing insights and expanding his network. Wong says the VTC equips students with up-to-date knowledge and practical skills through its modern and highly rated VPET, enabling employment opportunities beyond a traditional academic path. To find out more about WorldSkills Hong Kong, click here .