Calgary to host an Olympics for non-athletes

Nearly 150,000 people are expected to visit Stampede Park this fall for WorldSkills Calgary 2009, an Olympic-style event with 1000 participants from 51 countries competing for gold, silver and bronze medals in over 40 skill categories.

While the international trade, service and technology competition is geared to promoting skilled trades careers to youth, it’s also a prime occasion for IT professionals to hand-pick new recruits.

“Most managers and CEOs really get excited about the job recruitment prospects,” said Michelle Bussey, communications and marketing director for WorldSkills International (WSI), the global non-profit organization behind the event.

To qualify for the competition, participants must be between 17 and 23 years old.

“You get the best interview possible because you get to see them in action,” said Bussey. “And they are the best in the world really.”

The event also “raises the bar” on new technologies and trends, according to Bussey. “We really try to meet the highest industry standards in all the different skills, so it’s a learning process as well,” she said.

Managers and leaders in different sectors of government or education are encouraged to use WorldSkills Connect, an online portal developed by WSI that lets experts know in advance who else is going to be there.

“We’re giving the opportunity for them to announce themselves and schedule meetings so they can talk to people from other countries that have the same interests,” said Bussey.

Nearly 5,000 experts, delegates and judges are expected to attend the event this year.

Groups like Fluke, WSI, Cisco and the Cisco Training Academy are all trying to do something about the skills shortage by engaging young people, said David Green, director of marketing at Fluke Corporation, a global WSI sponsor and event sponsor for WorldSkills Calgary 2009.

“The whole cause – promoting skills and the shortage of skills and the need for technology professionals – is a really big issue,” he said.

The current economy may lesson the issue, but according to Green, the shortage is still there. This is especially true for IT professionals in telecommunications and networking who are more focused on new IT-based systems, he said.

The shortage extends globally as well.

“When you go to emerging markets, like Brazil or parts of South America, China and India where the opportunity for growth is significant, you have a different problem because you’re using next-generation technology,” he explained.

“You’re not going to use current systems,” Green continued. “You’ll use new systems, which require new skilled labour and skilled professionals to support it, which is an issue. You have to train local people to support those newer systems, which in many cases, are a generation ahead of what we have in North America or Western Europe.”

The same issue exists in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, where there is a lot of new infrastructure and technology being built, he added.

As the organization responsible for Team Canada’s participation in the WSI event, Skills/Comp

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