[Sponsored article] The VPET International Conference, WorldSkills Hong Kong Competition and Carnival 2017, the top local event in vocational and professional education and training, brought government officials and academics together to discuss the global trends in VPET and strengthen collaborations among VPET partners and institutions. The event took place on June 16 to 17 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, attracting a turnout of some 20,000 members of the public.Jointly organised by the VTC and the Education Bureau, the conference began with an opening ceremony officiated by CY Leung, Chief Executive of the HKSAR, and other leading figures. In his opening speech, the Chief Executive praised the conference as one of the key events celebrating the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China. Leung added that Hong Kong’s experience in education and professional training could contribute to China’s education and youth development. “Our connectivity with mainland China and the rest of the world will help foster international collaborations, and help bring together education experts – like all of you here – for discussion and experience-sharing,” he said. Rebranding VPET A government leaders’ roundtable moderated by Eddie Ng Hak-kim, the Secretary for Education, provided a platform for promoting discussion about VPET, and for strengthening collaboration among high-level policymakers in the region. Malaysia’s Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Datuk Dr Mary Yap Kain Ching, emphasised the significance of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (Higher Education), highlighting the commitment of the Malaysia Government in rebranding its vocational education making VPET the mainstream choice of young people, rather than the secondary choice. Thailand’s Vice Minister for Education, Dr Sophon Napathorn, stressed the need to reform the vocational education and explained how they enhance the quality and standard of vocational education in Thailand.Wang Yangnan, China’s Deputy Director General of Vocational Education and Adult Education, shared with the audience that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the foundation of vocational education in China showing the country’s long history of fostering vocational education. Taking the Belt and Road initiative as an opportunity, China would continue its progress in strengthening vocational education in China’s education system. Fostering Lifelong Skills Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya, Chairman and Founder of Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) United Kingdom, one of the keynote speakers of the conference, also shared his experience and knowledge in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.To achieve “work first” STEM education, Lord Bhattacharyya said it required industry to contribute both financially and culturally. Vocational education systems need to encourage and demand such contributions, and where this does not happen, industry and educational groups must take responsibility for leadership. Competition and Collaboration Apart from the Conference, the WorldSkills Hong Kong Competition, the event’s youth-oriented trade competition, was a great way for participants to exchange experiences. VTC chairman Dr Clement Chen Cheng-jen said that it was a good training for these young people, as they can test their attentiveness, their resilience, and their problem-solving skills. Chen expressed that the competition was on the radar of industry leaders and employers. The two-day event was a celebration of the VTC’s 35th Anniversary. A World of Skills This year’s WorldSkills Hong Kong Competition, which included a carnival that is free for the public to enjoy, was the biggest ever. The two-day activity, supported by the Education Bureau, was jointly organised by the VTC, the Construction Industry Council, and the Clothing Industry Training Authority.The public watched international competitors come from 14 countries and regions participate in 12 trade competitions. Outstanding Hong Kong competitors are selected to represent the city at WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017 in October. Hong Kong competitors clinched the gold award in four competitions, including Beauty Therapy, Electrical Installation, IT Software Solutions for Business and Mobile Robotics, attesting to the worldclass standard of local VPET. Learning experience Russian university student Rakhmatullin Timerlan took part in the competition for IT Software Solutions for Business. “I want to design smart homes to provide people with a more comfortable and innovative living. Such kind of technological applications are very popular in Russia,” he replied when asked about his dream career. Hong Kong’s Lau Wai-yin, who holds the Youth College Diploma of Vocational Education (Beauty Care), was the local competitor in the beauty therapy skills competition. “I think the key for success is having the resilience to adjust to the changes in the situation during the competition,” Lau said. Sharing knowledge Tertiary students of STEM disciplines from countries like Australia, Finland, the United States and Japan also joined VTC students in the International STEM Students’ Forum 2017, held in tandem, to share experiences and learning outcomes from conducting joint STEM projects.