THE LOW DOWN: What do welding, commercial baking, CPR, prepared speech, carpentry, technical math and auto mechanics have in common? They’re just a few of the 90 different areas of competition that Nebraska students participated in at the SkillsUSA State Championship at Central Community College- Hastings. Why should you care? Simple. These kids are an important part of our nation’s future; the leaders and skilled workers that our country – and our state – so desperately need.
THE CHAMPIONS: Tony Glenn, Education Specialist – Nebraska Department of Education; Greg Stahr –SkillsUSA Nebraska State Director; a dedicated board of directors and team of advisers; and the hundreds of volunteers and teachers that make SkillsUSA possible.
THE SOLUTION: SkillsUSA was founded in 1965 (it used to be called VICA) and currently boasts school chapters in 54 states and US territories. It is the second largest career student organization after FFA. More than 300,000 students and advisors participate in the annual events, and the organization counts on an active alumni group to help run competitions. (In the most recent competition, the carpentry competition was run by Todd Enck, a SkillsUSA alum and national champion who is now a successful home builder.) The organization has had a presence in Nebraska for 47 years and more than 900 Nebraska students participated in the most recent state competition with 140 moving on to the national competition in Kansas City.
The students who participate in SkillsUSA come from all walks of life. One might develop an interest in plumbing by working with a family member during the summer. Another might have gone through first aid and CPR training because of an interest in medicine. SkillsUSA truly offers something for everyone. But as diverse as the organization’s competitions are, there is one underlying theme: leadership.
SkillsUSA is, at its core, a leadership organization. It’s not just about learning a trade, but also about learning the soft skills and general knowledge that make a person a good employee: teamwork, focus and dedication.
Along with state and national competitions, SkillsUSA holds two leadership conferences each year. At the Washington Leadership Training Institute held in September, students and advisors will learn about the impact of the individual as a leader, as a citizen and as an employee.
At the competitions, the breadth and depth of events is made possible by the dozens of volunteers and corporate sponsors who donate time, money, and materials. National sponsors like Lowes and Bosch join local sponsors like NMC (Nebraska Machinery Corp) at each event. The companies benefit not just from brand exposure (after all, these students will one day purchase the tools of their trade) but also by having a direct line to a stream of qualified candidates for employment.
THE RESULTS: As the need for skilled workers increases, so does SkillsUSA membership. And students aren’t the only ones taking note. Businesses are approaching the organization to add new competitions that address new skills needed, such as robotics and welding fabrication.
With more than 10 million alumni, having SkillsUSA participation on a resume has become a surefire way to attract attention among potential employers and secondary education institutions. Hiring managers and admissions officers know that students with a SkillsUSA background will work hard and bring to the table the skills and dedication to succeed.
According to the latest state data, students concentrating in career education courses are graduating at a 99.9% rate compared to an 82% rate for all Nebraska students. SkillsUSA helps students understand how to apply the academics, making education more meaningful.