The autonomous universities in Singapore will, for the first time, take part in the WorldSkills Singapore competition this year alongside students from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and polytechnics, as part of an expansion of the event.
The three universities are Singapore Institute of Technology, Singapore Management University and National University of Singapore.
Also, the number of skill areas participants will compete in during the three-day biennial competition will be increased - by nine - to 26.
These changes were announced by Education Minister Ong Ye Kung at the launch of the competition's 13th edition at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre yesterday. "This year's WorldSkills Singapore is the largest in history. It will bring together close to 250 finalists to compete in 26 skill areas, including new categories such as cyber security," he said.
This year's theme is "Our Skills, Our Future" and the event involves 150 more participants than in 2016. New areas, such as water technology and rapid transit systems, were added after being identified as emerging and in-demand skills key to Singapore's future economy.
"We moved the competition out of ITE to where we are today, at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre," said Mr Ong.
The change is aimed at making the competition more accessible to a wider public audience.
Mr Ong cited Singapore's 25 gold medals at the international WorldSkills competition as evidence of the standard of Singapore youth's ability and dedication. "When I was at the WorldSkills competition in Abu Dhabi last year, our competitors shared with me how they had spent nine months preparing for the competition, practising six to eight hours almost every day."
Mr Ong also introduced a new WorldSkills Singapore Ambassador scheme to recognise past competitors who have gone on to pursue excellence in their fields. These include former ITE student Catherine Boey, who won gold at the 2013 international WorldSkills competition in the area of beauty therapy and is now a lecturer at her alma mater.
This year's Singapore event will be used to give secondary school students education and career guidance. "In fact, 12,000 secondary school students will be exploring the interactive booths, and trying the hands-on activities over the next few days," said Mr Ong.
There will also be more than 30 free workshops across five industry clusters for adults tomorrow, including mobile phone photography and digital animation creation.
This year's winners may be chosen to represent Singapore at next month's Asean Skills competition in Bangkok, and the international WorldSkills competition in Kazan, Russia, in August next year.
Winners of the gold, silver and bronze medals will win $3,000, $2,000 and $1,000, respectively, and receive their prizes at the closing ceremony next Tuesday.
Correction note: An earlier version of this story said that there were six autonomous universities involved and that Singapore had won 35 gold medals at the international level. An ITE spokesman has clarified that there were actually only three autonomous universities involved, while MOE has said that Singapore had actually won only 25 gold medals at the international level and that the previous number given by it was incorrect.