Congratulations SkillsUSA National Champions!

Grant Career Center SkillsUSA members recently returned from Louisville, Kentucky where they competed at the 51st Annual National Leadership and Skills Conference and SkillsUSA Championships. The competition was held at Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, on June 22-26, 2015. SkillsUSA organizes this event, and it is considered the single greatest day of industry volunteerism in America annually at an estimated cost of more than $36 million. Begun in 1967, the SkillsUSA Championship has grown from 54 competitors in three contests to more than 6,000 competitors in 100 hands-on skill and leadership contests this year.  The Biotechnology Team of Jess Riley (Bethel-Tate), Kyle Barrett (Williamsburg) and Tegan Schwettman (Felicity) earned the privilege of representing Grant Career Center at the championship by winning a Gold Medal at the state level in the spring and traveled to Louisville full of hopes and dreams of winning a shiny medal. The students were accompanied on their trip to Louisville by SkillsUSA advisors Angie and Tobin Huebner.

The Biotechnology Team competed in the Career Pathways Showcase-Agriculture competition and brought back a Silver Medal for their efforts at the national level. The students used their biotechnology course of study as the basis of a project that highlighted Bethel’s struggle with the Asian Longhorned Beetle. The students worked with area agencies to create an informative display and presentation that highlighted procedures and practices designed to limit damage and control the vicious pest. This contest judged mastery of their training, its application, the project’s benefit to their community, and display and presentation techniques.

Jess Riley summed up the team’s experience by saying, “The SkillsUSA competitions have taught us how to present our work in a way that we can be proud of.  We were more confident this week working with people from across the nation and experiencing things we have never seen. When my parents and grandparents saw me on the live-stream of the ceremony winning my medal, I was proud of our work!  SkillsUSA is definitely a great program and a wonderful resource for helping people become confident and sharing skills that they have mastered.”

The Conference offered many exciting experiences for the Team including an Opening Ceremony at KEC’s Freedom Hall that featured a keynote address by Snap-on Tools CEO Nick Pinchuk. In between competition presentations, the team visited Louisville Zoo, The Kentucky Kingdom, TECHSPO exhibits by major national companies and educational resources, and many Louisville highlights.

The night of the Award Ceremony, anxiety levels were high as the contestants were eager to find out if they were the best in the nation. Sitting through the three segments of awards and officer election results were testing the patience of the students whose results had yet to be revealed. Finally, the Career Pathways Showcase-Agriculture flashed on the big screen and the team was delighted to hear their name called. They rushed to the staging area to await their turn on the podium. Kyle Barrett said, “This past week at SkillsUSA was an amazing experience! I learned so many things and bringing home a medal made the trip perfect”

As well as this trip being a reward for work well done throughout the year, the team also learned some very valuable skills. Kyle highlighted the three main lessons learned. “First of all, we learned communication skills, the need to speak loudly and clearly so that the judges will understand you; next is confidence, the need to be yourself and to step outside of your comfort zone; and finally, we learned sportsmanship, the need to play fairly and to respect other competitors.”

SkillsUSA helps students discover and grow their career passions. As a nationwide partnership of students, instructors and industry working together, SkillsUSA works to ensure America has a skilled workforce. It helps every student excel. SkillsUSA has the active support of more than 1,100 corporations, trade associations, business and labor unions at the national level. Over 11.2 million people have been annual members of SkillsUSA since its founding as The Vocational Industrial Clubs of America in 1965. SkillsUSA programs teach leadership, citizenship and character development to complement technical skill training. The organization emphasizes respect for the dignity of work, ethics, workmanship, scholarship and safety.

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