Cape Town - Team South Africa has returned from the 45th WorldSkills competition - the Olympics of artisanal trades - in Kazan, Russia with a host of awards.
Over four days of intense competition, artisans from around the world pit their skills against one another in time-pressure challenges.
The categories ranged from welding, mechatronics, carpentry and bricklaying to hairdressing, jewellery, fashion technology and floristry.
An estimated 270 000 attended to watch over 1 350 competitors.
South Africa sent a team of 23 and finished 29th out of 62 countries.
The most decorated among South Africa’s competitors was car painter Trevor Roets, who earned a Medallion of Excellence as well as a Best of Nations award.
Jacques Welgemoed won a bronze medal for drone operating.
“This means the world to me,” Roets said. “I have sacrificed such a lot and it was a dream to be (in Kazan) and make my nation proud.
“Now I will move heaven and earth to pass on my skills and experiences to others.”
Jarred Moonsamy, from KwaZulu-Natal, was a member of the team which won gold for building a model of the International Space Station.
“I have put in hundreds of hours to being up there with the best,” Moonsamy said. “I managed to keep up with guys who were training for some time. It pushed me to better myself. We worked under pressure with new technology. It increased my knowledge quite a bit - it’s basically the future of our trade.
“My passion would be train the next guy to be more prepared than I was... make resources and funds available to him.”
Stefan Lottering from Gauteng won a Medallion of Excellence in welding, completing a series of tasks within a time limit.
“The competition itself was challenging but it was worth it,” he said. “I tried to stay calm and not be intimidated.
“You’re never really competing against the guy next to you - you’re competing against the mark sheet.”
The competition also gave Lottering a new approach to his profession.
“To meet the guys and listen to how they do things, it opens your eyes to a different perspective about your trade,” he said.
“The standards are so high in that competition. When you look at their work and projects afterwards, it changes your approach in the future.”
Lottering spent hours practising the challenges that were set for the previous WorldSkills competition.
“I checked on the previous competition, what projects and processes they did. You just need to focus your training on that,” he said.
“In some instances it’s quite different from what apprentices do in the working area.”
WorldSkills is a well supported and prestigious international event, Lottering said, yet few South Africans were aware of it, even within the trade industry.
“It’s astonishing to see how little people know about this competition. I think a lot of talent gets lost because people don’t know about it.”
The WorldSkills South Africa initiative is headed by the Department of Higher Education and Training.
It aims to increase awareness around artisanal skills and raise the standard of vocational education in the trade industry.