SkillsUSA was formed in May 1965 so students in career and technical education could tell the world around them they were professionals and were proud of the work they were preparing to do. From its earliest days, SkillsUSA (originally formed as VICA—Vocational Industrial Clubs of America) was a meeting place between industry and career and technical education. As a national partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce, SkillsUSA has always focused on the technical and employability skills students need to begin their careers.
Today, SkillsUSA has an annual membership of more than 300,000 students and instructors nationwide in more than 16,000 school instructional programs. There are 54 state and territorial associations at the high school and college levels. More than 10.5 million members have been served by SkillsUSA since its founding. The organization represents 130 occupational areas. It enjoys the active support of more than 1,100 corporations, trade associations, businesses and unions at the national level alone.
Much of SkillsUSA’s industry support comes through the SkillsUSA Championships, a nationwide annual competition that begins with nearly 10,000 local contests, then district and state contests, culminating in the national SkillsUSA Championships in June. All contests are designed, run and judged by practicing industry professionals using industry standards. This is an important way industry uses the championships to ensure career and technical education stays up to date with the needs of employers.
Begun in 1967, the SkillsUSA Championships have grown from 54 competitors in three contests to more than 5,600 competitors in 90-plus hands-on skill and leadership contests, including construction contests in Carpentry; Cabinetmaking; Residential Wiring; Plumbing; Residential Systems Installation and Maintenance Technology; and TeamWorks, in which teams of four students with carpentry, electrical, plumbing and masonry skills are required to build a construction project in three days.
Dan Taddei, NARI’s director of education and a member of the national technical committee for the TeamWorks competition believes SkillsUSA helps train future remodelers. “There is basically no better match between the remodeling industry and SkillsUSA than the TeamWorks competition,” he says. “We ask local remodelers to assist in judging the competition, and they want to know how they can hire the students who are competing. SkillsUSA has helped these students learn the soft skills needed to be a good employee. NARI leaders feel it is important to assist in any way possible to help prepare the next generation of skilled workers and encourage them to explore options in the remodeling industry. This is the workforce that will maintain, repair and remodel our homes in coming years.”
lot of employers get involved as a way to hire good workers. As Boyd Worsham, vice president of construction support for The Haskell Co., a design-build company, and chair of the SkillsUSA Championships national technical committee for the Carpentry competition, says, “Being involved with SkillsUSA’s Carpentry competition is the best opportunity for my company to recruit the most talented young entrants coming into our business. SkillsUSA just makes good business sense for my firm.”
In addition, industries connected to construction find benefits from being involved with SkillsUSA and its competitions. Al Pencek, claims, education and training instructor for State Farm Insurance Cos., explains: “State Farm became involved with SkillsUSA and the TeamWorks competition to help promote carpentry, electrical, plumbing and masonry trades. We want to invest in the future and look forward to working with men and women who are skilled craftsmen on fire, wind and water damage.”
Through the many programs and guidance SkillsUSA offers, it helps instructors teach the essentials: basic skills, including applied academics, customer service and communications; technical and professional skills, including those for specialized industries; management and leadership skills, including team building, goal setting and modification; and emotional intelligence, including self-discipline, persistence and empathy. SkillsUSA students bring that added layer of professionalism that is vital to the competitive business environment.