SINGAPORE - Singapore will be fielding a team of 32 - its largest contingent yet - from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), the five polytechnics and Nanyang Technological University (NTU), at the upcoming WorldSkills Competition (WSC) in Russia later this month.
It is also the first time Singapore will be represented in this competition by a student from an autonomous university. NTU's Ms Ng Zi Xuan will compete in chemical laboratory technology.
A 22-strong contingent took part in the 2011, 2013 and 2015 editions of the WSC.
The biennial competition, to be held in Kazan, Russia, from Aug 22 to 27, is dubbed the "Olympics of Skills". It is the world's largest vocational and technical skills competition for young people, with more than 1,300 competitors from 69 countries competing in 56 skill areas this year.
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, who attended the send-off ceremony at ITE Headquarters in Ang Mo Kio on Tuesday (Aug 6), drew parallels between WSC and sports competitions, bringing up the World Cup held in Russia last year as an example.
"Competing in WorldSkills versus competing in the Olympics, World Cup, the SEA (South-east Asian) Games and Asian Games - there are many similarities," he said.
All these competitions are pressurising, but "pressure makes it fun", he added.
They also require a great deal of practice and discipline.
Mr Ong said: "I think all our contestants today, across different institutes of higher learning, have put in blood, sweat and tears in preparing for this competition."
Just as athletes need their coaches, the WSC competitors also need their teachers, mentors and coaches, and support from the people around them, he said.
And just like the nation's athletes, the young people at WSC are also role models.
"Competing with the best in the world - it is an inspiration to many people watching you.
"When you step forth and compete, whether it's the Olympics, sports events or this competition, you're flying Singapore's flag high."
This year, Singapore will be competing in 29 skill areas, including six new areas: cyber security, chemical laboratory technology, cloud computing, fashion technology, water technology and hotel reception.
Other traditional skill areas include cooking, beauty therapy, hairdressing, and health and social care.
A Future Skills Competition, which tests "emerging skills in demand for the digital economy", will also be held in conjunction with the WSC.
Such skills include building information modelling technology and drone operating. Singapore will field three competitors in these two areas.
Team captain Shauna Tan from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, who is competing in information network cabling, said: "We have trained so much, with some even going home at 12am every day.
"Obviously, we want to win. But regardless of how many medals we win, I'm very proud of the team and I hope most of us will come back not only stronger in our skill areas, but with personal growth as well," added the 19-year-old.