By: Andrea Williams
The SkillsUSA Conference, held annually nationwide, is a platform for students to become empowered world-class workers, leaders and responsible Americans in the field of their choosing. Various companies, students and technical colleges come together to provide a nurturing environment for students to become viable members of society and skilled worker.
EAST POINT, Ga- Every year fewer and fewer students are going to college, choosing an alternative route to make a living and get ahead in life. Just 65.9 percent of students who graduated from high school in spring 2014 enrolled in college the following semester. SkillsUSA offers an opportunity for students to change their lives.
SkillsUSA helps students excel with the partnership of fellow students, teachers and industries working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. SkillsUSA mission statement says they, “improve the quality of America’s skilled workforce through a structured program of citizenship, leadership, employability, technical and professional skills training. SkillsUSA enhances the lives and careers of students, instructors and industry representatives as they strive to be champions at work.”
For Amber Mosley, 19, conferences like this add stability to her future. After graduating from Hiram High School Mosley wasn’t sure what she was ahead for her future. “I just couldn’t see myself at a four-year school,” Mosley said. After meeting with her advisor and parents they suggested the SkillsUSA Conference held annually in Georgia.
What started the movement of change
Over Fifty years ago, over 150 teachers, students and administrators held a conference at a local hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. Along with founding the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America, their goal to establish a nationwide organization to promote trade and industrial education that served students’ needs was created.
With this program, students discover and grow their career passions and appreciate their own self-worth through the work and dedication of administrators, instructors and industry partners.
Helen Smith, secretary of the state officers, enjoys working with this organization and all it brings to students and the community. “As a state officer we help organize these events so fellow students are able to better themselves and their local community,” Smith said.
Since SkillsUSA has started it has gone from a mere 26 states to reaching 53 states and territorial associations bringing in more than 11.9 million members since 1965. Over the years they have not only created a place for students and instructors to bond in a common industry, they also hold employability and leadership training and encourage civic engagement.
Every year more and more companies are joining this program because of the massive opportunity cost they gain from this event. “More than 600 businesses, corporations, trade associations and labor unions are partners at the national level alone, with thousands more supporting at state and local levels,” according to SkillsUSA. More than ¼ of U.S occupational areas are covered by the SkillsUSA curriculum.
Within each three-day event students take various tests to see what field their interests or expertise would fit best with them. Cosmetology, Digital Cinema Productions, Firefighting Nail Care, and Welding are just a few of the career options available. They also have workshops for students to learn more about a specific field where they bring in speakers who are well versed in that specific field.
Christian Testlof, an engineer at Lanier Technical College, has been coming to SkillsUSA for five years. “We come here to help spread information about what we do at Lanier Tech,” Testlof said. Choosing on 50 students a semester the Motor Sports Vehicle Technical Program teaches students how to assemble racecars for NASCAR. “We look for students with experience with auto motives, we hold interviews and if you meet the qualifications you are part of an extensive rewarding program,” Testlof said.
For some jobs after testing has ended the top scorers must complete a hands on test that shows they are capable of handling the day to day demands of the job.
Students and Alumni
Amber Mosley considers herself lucky she was told about the SkillsUSA program. “I felt that they really took the time to get to know my interest and test my knowledge of certain career opportunities,” Mosley said. This program is for students who find themselves in a cross road in what they want to do in life.
Mosley is just one of countless other stories of success through this program. Just in Georgia there are four different chapters, in those four chapters there are over 30 schools just in the state of Georgia. Based on their framework this program works because it empowers its students to achieve success, develops a skillset demanded by businesses that lack many employees today, and ensures that every student will walk away with a new skillset.
“This conference changed my life,” Mosley said. “It was the first step to a better more concrete future, they helped me figure everything out.”
This non-profit organization helps students who are wanting to go to college or the workforce. If you are a college bound student this program can help you gain job experience to help you define your career plan, help identify a suitable course of study and also help pay for your tuition.
How to get involved
Visit http://www.skillsusa.org/about/ to learn more information. To register your child or yourself visit: http://www.skillsusa.org/membership-resources/ . If you would like to just lend your services as a company or volunteer, please visit http://www.skillsusa.org/get-involved/