Skills Finland and Luovi Vocational College organised an International Abilympics Conference Competitions for All on 25-28 April 2010 in Oulu, Finland. The conference was held with the purpose of developing Abilympics competitions – “Olympics of Abilities” – that is, vocational skills competitions for people with disabilities and special needs. The conference was held in connection with Taitaja 2010, the Finnish national skills competition, which attracted 51 000 visitors.
Vocational skills competitions have produced excellent results in the development of vocational education and training (VET). Competitions enhance the attractiveness of VET and provide a tool for the evaluation of different educational models. They are also an excellent opportunity for international cooperation and personal striving and fulfillment. The family of skills competitions consists of both international competitions, such as WorldSkills and EuroSkills, and of national competitions such as the annually held Finnish Taitaja. Now, the aim is to put these principles to use for students with disabilities and special needs.
Abilympics competitions are not a new invention. The first International Abilympics (IA) was held in Japan in 1981; they are now held every four years. The next IA will be held in September 2011 in the Olympic Park in Seoul, South Korea, and the competition will consist of 33 skills categories and 7 leisure and living skills categories. Many Asian countries have a long history of successful competitions, and Europe is now starting to build competitions leaning on these good experiences. In Finland, for example, the competition for students with special needs was held for the third time this year, and integrated with the national Taitaja competition under the name TaitajaPLUS. In France, five different skills Abilympics categories will be a part of the national finals for the first time next year.
In the Competitions for All conference, more that 50 participants from all over the world discussed the development of Abilympics in Europe – despite the Icelandic volcano ash which for a while threatened the whole conference! The aims of the conference included the development of Abilympics as a part of the family of skills competitions, the exchange of good practices between WorldSkills, EuroSkills, IA and national skills competitions, as well as the charting of prospects for organising the 2015 IA in Europe.
These topics were tackled during three intensive days of presentations, discussions, and side activities. The participants had the opportunity to visit the Taitaja competition and an award presentation of TaitajaPLUS competition. The best competitors of the Customer Service and Selling category were awarded medals by Eisuke Saotome, president of the International Abilympic Federation.
The aims of the conference were largely met. New connections were established between the organisations behind WorldSkills, EuroSkills, and International Abilympics, with many new European countries now expected to apply for membership of the International Abilympic Federation. The Conference was a starting point for a new Abilympics network in Europe, and will also lead to serious discussion of the prospects of organising the IA 2015 in Europe.
Source: Skills Finland