The 41st WorldSkills competition, which took place from October 5 to 8 in London, concluded in style on October 9, 2011, with an impressive closing ceremony before a packed house of more than 22,000 at London's O2 arena. Over the four days of the event, world champions were crowned in 46 different disciplines. The 1,000 participants from 51 countries were watched by some 200,000 visitors, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, Her Royal Highness Princess Anne and other high-ranking politicians and business people, as they did battle for medals and the best possible ranking.
For the first time in the offset printing category the gold and silver medals went to two young women. The pace was set by 22-year-old printer Makiko Ito, who finished some way ahead of Susanna Virtanen from Finland.
Makiko has been working for the Asia Printing Corporation in Japan since 2008 and honed her skills on a Printmaster PM 74 from Heidelberg. In 2010, she won Japan's national championship in the printing category. Silver medal winner Susanna Virtanen works at a print shop that forms part of the training institute in Turku, Finland, which is equipped with a Printmaster PM 52 four-color press. Alongside her job as a printer, Susanna is a college student in the Finnish town of Jyväskylä.
Sascha Epp, who was crowned national champion ahead of seven other competitors in the German final, came fourth - just behind Olivier Deloge from Belgium. Epp, who works at Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG (Heidelberg), was awarded the "Medallion for Excellence" in recognition of his outstanding performance. "The WorldSkills competition was an amazing experience for me and I am proud to have been able to compete in the event. The tasks were well designed and the experts went to great lengths to ensure a fair and objective assessment of the contestants' performance," he said.
Bernhard Nahm, a member of the management team at the Print Media Center in Heidelberg, was one of the judges assessing the performance of the young printers in London. He was delighted at the success of the female contestants. "Heidelberg has had an impressively high proportion of female printing trainees for some years now. We are currently training ten young people to become printers and four of these are highly motivated young women. The next WorldSkills competition will return to Germany for the first time in 40 years - and perhaps one of our trainees will once again be a finalist in Leipzig in 2013," he said.
Heidelberg provided two Speedmaster SM 52 five-color presses for the competition in London. Both machines were sold to two British customers even before the end of the event. The European finalists did their preparatory training on the same type of press at the Print Media Center in Heidelberg in September 2011.
Heidelberg is a founding member of the WorldSkills Germany e.V. initiative, which was set up in 2006 to raise awareness of the exceptional value that high-quality vocational training holds.
Images and further company information are available in the press portal of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG at www.heidelberg.com.