The SkillsUSA technical skills competition took place in Colorado Springs on April 10 to 12, and a few Region 8 students placed in various categories.
SkillsUSA is a career and technical skills student organization that prepares students for further education and the workforce. There are more than 320,000 members nationally. At state, students competed in around 90 different categories, from carpentry to cosmetology.
Senior Hunter Robins, a senior from Ignacio High school, took third place in the Welding Sculpture competition. He is going to Lincoln Tech in Denver to continue his welding education.
From Bayfield High School, Linda Stephenson won first place in First Aid/CPR. Stephenson will compete at the national championship in Louisville, Kentucky, on June 24. Braxton Nistler won bronze in Cabinetmaking, and Chase Noonon and Isiah Hutcheson took third place in Digital Cinema Production.
Curtis Gillespie is the Bayfield construction tech teacher and is one of the school’s three SkillsUSA advisers. He said these programs are important because they help close the skills gap, which refers to the qualities employers are looking for in employees and what is actually available.
“We want to make sure (students) are job-ready Day One when kids get out of school,” Gillespie said.
In his 14 years of teaching and 12 years of advising SkillsUSA, Gillespie said the pendulum is swinging back toward an interest in technical skills. This year, there were 32 students involved in the program. At Ignacio, there were about 15 kids in the program this year.
“There is a lot more education (promoting) the importance of trade skills at a state level,” said Ignacio wood manufacturing teacher and SkillsUSA adviser Molly Turner. “(Students) realize four-year college is not a path for everyone. There are jobs that pay well and will be in demand if they develop these skills now.”
Bayfield students learn technical skills through classes offered at the high school. Stephenson, for instance, learned CPR in Bayfield’s MedTech class.
Turner started the Ignacio program two years ago and she said they are still learning how to incorporate new trades into the program. Right now, they focus on cabinetmaking, welding, welding sculpture, photography, and crime scene investigation, which is taught by Ignacio School District’s school resource officer, Preston Rea.
Turner also wants to add CPR and first-aid training. Next year, she is planning to integrate SkillsUSA into her cabinetmaking level-two curriculum.
If a student expresses interest in a trade that the school doesn’t directly offer, Turner said she will try to find a community volunteer in the same field to fill the void. She said they try to be at the forefront of new technologies, like 3D printing and computer drafting to expose students to current tech.
“SkillsUSA is a great opportunity for our students to be part of something bigger,” Turner said.
From Durango High School, Seth Thornburg placed first in Carpentry, Carson Swift placed second in Customer Service and Iz Tenorio placed second in First Aid/CPR.