SkillsUSA builds a strong foundation for the workforce

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The following are excerpts taken from a story written by Matt Parke, Working Nation. We highly stress that you visit their site for the rest of the story, and abundance of information regarding the hard truths about the looming unemployment crisis and bring the country together to create and amplify solutions for a changing economy.

The annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference (NLSC) and the SkillsUSA Championships features more than 18,000 attendees  working an event the size of 20 football fields. A diverse group of students puts their training to the test in events ranging from cosmetology and construction to broadcasting and information technology. The NLSC is the future of work on display and SkillsUSA students are fired up to be a part of it. This past June, SkillsUSA members descended on the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville and turned it into a model city filled with skilled talent

The national nonprofit organization brings the country together to promote the technical and soft skills that employers desire and SkillsUSA students have. It is where analog skills, such as swinging a hammer, are on par with digital ones found in robotics and 3D printing.

SkillsUSA is the first student organization for trade and industrial education and has served more than 13 million members since 1965. The organization trains more than 340,000 middle school, high school, post-secondary and college students across 130 occupational skill areas. Its continuing mission is to develop the next generation of workforce leaders and promote the value of Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs.

SkillsUSA’s strategy to develop skilled workers comes at a critical time in the U.S. labor market. Widespread labor shortages are happening across a majority of sectors.

Welding together copper pipes for the project’s indoor plumbing. Photo Credit: Jonathan Barenboim

Reversing the college or bust trend requires raising awareness about the opportunities for younger workers without a four-year degree. SkillsUSA also makes the trades more appealing to a new generation by elevating them to competition status. The same reverence that sports legends receive is bestowed on competitors whether they are a master at applying mortar to bricks or can control a robotic arm.

“We need young people that are engaged in the trades, excited about the trades, have passion about the trades and the professions that we serve to enter that talent pipeline,” Lawrence said.

Examining the project’s blueprints. Photo credit: Jonathan Barenboim

Getting students to have that passion will take convincing them and their families about the ample career opportunities that await after graduation or obtaining a technical certificate. SkillsUSA makes employment a priority for students by treating the NLSC as a giant job fair. Each student must bring a resume and meet with employers who are looking to recruit talent from the competition floor.

The event space is spread across multiple buildings. Photo credit: Jonathan Barenboim

While many SkillsUSA students compete in the more than 100 events as individuals, the event’s TeamWorks contest tests the combined abilities of trades students representing four aspects of construction: carpentry, masonry, plumbing and electrical work. In only 16 hours, all teams must plan, present and build a structure from the same blueprints provided by SkillsUSA.

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