Ireland’s first WorldSkills champion, who received his medal from General Franco almost 60 years ago, has declared that he had no intention of retiring at the age of 77.
Galwegian Peter Walsh helped to mark the 60th anniversary of the country’s involvement in WorldSkills, at the closing ceremony of the 2017 Irish competition in Dublin’s Croke Park. A joiner, Mr Walsh still works up to 70 hours a week and declared that he had no intention of stopping at the competition, which was held early in order to select a team for participation at the WorldSkills Abu Dhabi event next October. Ireland joined the movement on January 1 1956 and sent its first team, including Mr Walsh, to the world games in Spain in 1957.
WorldSkills is the global hub for skills excellence and development, which aims to raise the profile and recognition of skilled people, and show how important skills are in achieving economic growth and personal success. The Irish competition has seen a 30 per cent increase in registrations across 27 trades this year after a slump of entries during the recession, which saw just three contenders in bricklaying.
Mr Walsh, from the Ballybane Road in Galway, was just 18 when he travelled with the first-ever Irish team to take part in the international competition in Madrid. The joiner was the only Irish team member to take gold at the junior event that year and subsequently took a second gold at senior level in Italy two years later.
“I went there to bring home the bacon and I did. I always practised auto-suggestion so I told myself I was going to win,” he said. “I had to make a step ladder from scratch to win and then I learned the phrase ‘Enchanted to meet you’ in Spanish, which I said to General Franco when he handed me the cup.
“Two years later I received my award from the President of Italy, and after that was presented with another award from Prince Philip when I came first in the British Commonwealth in the City and Guilds competition for carpentry.
“I would advise any young person to take up a trade and get involved in WorldSkills. Doing what you love is the key. I still work a 70-hour week and I have no intention of stopping, because I enjoy every minute.”
The movement was founded in 1950 in Spain and now represents over 45 skills in 76 member countries and regions. A wide array of skills is represented from aircraft maintenance, carpentry, plumbing, welding and tiling to beauty therapy, cooking and restaurant service.
Over 140 craftspeople from all over Ireland took part in 22 events held in both the Dublin and Cork Institutes of Technology over the past week.Winners receive silver medals from the Department of Education and Skills.
“Everything, from the houses we live in to the societies we create, is the result of skills,” said Ray English, official Irish delegate, WorldSkills International. “Having a skill is the driving force behind successful careers and companies, thriving industries, and economies. It is also a global currency, transferrable across international boundaries.”