More than 460 North Carolina students from 41 high schools and 17 community colleges traveled to Louisville, Ky., earlier this summer as the third-largest delegation to attend the 54th annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference, which drew more than 17,000 participants in all from every state and U.S. territory.
North Carolina high school and postsecondary students who competed in SkillsUSA Championships in areas ranging from construction trades to engineering and advanced manufacturing brought home 45 gold medals – the most in the nation – and a total of 71 medallions for the second highest medal count. Nearly 20 percent of North Carolina competitors placed first in the nation with more than half finishing in the top 10.
“SkillsUSA is a great example of our efforts to empower students with career pathways that provide them the best opportunity to pursue their American Dream,” said State Superintendent Mark Johnson. “The great success our students have had is a testament to the hard work students and educators have put into making career and technical education a priority in North Carolina’s schools.”
Students compete at the local, regional, and state levels to earn the right to represent North Carolina on the national stage. Competitors had to win first place in their respective competition at the state level to quality to compete at the national level.
“We are incredibly proud of our students and teachers for embodying our slogan of being ‘Champions at work’,” said Peyton Holland, SkillsUSA North Carolina executive director. “This was a landmark year for North Carolina at the state and national level, with the largest attendances we have had both our state and national conference. Our students performed with great skill and expertise, earning the highest national medal count in SkillsUSA North Carolina’s 53-year history, along with several other record-breaking accomplishments.”
The SkillsUSA Championships is the national-level competition for public high school and college/postsecondary students enrolled in career and technical education programs. SkillsUSA organizes this event, and it is considered the single largest day of industry volunteerism in America annually at an estimated cost of more than $36 million. Each SkillsUSA Championships contestant is a state-level gold medalist.
The SkillsUSA Championships has grown from 54 competitors in three contests in 1967 to more than 6,000 competitors in 102 hands-on skill and leadership contests this year. SkillsUSA adds contests to the SkillsUSA Championships to meet the demands of new and expanding occupations. Currently, the Championships cover more than 20 football fields of floor space (nearly 1.2 million square feet). All contests are run with the help of top industry, trade associations, and technical experts and test competencies that are set by industry. The contests require a massive amount of equipment and materials, including more than 1,000 computers, 50 trucks, 9,500 bricks and 1,500 blocks, 60 stoves, and complete laboratories for machining, welding, auto repair and painting.
SkillsUSA (formerly known as Vocational Industrial Clubs of America or V.I.C.A.) is a national partnership of students, teachers and industry, working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. SkillsUSA has an impact on America’s future workforce through the development of personal, workplace, and technical skills grounded in academics.
In addition to excellence in competitive events, North Carolina received its very first National Model of Excellence, the Catawba Valley Community College Chapter. Out of 16,000 chapters in the country, Catawba Valley was one of three selected annually as the model chapters for SkillsUSA.
North Carolina also had three students elected to serve as the student leaders for the national organization. Brandon Ramirez (Lee County High School) and Preston Prince (Columbus County Career and College Academy) were elected as High School National Officers and Nickolas Joyner (Catawba Valley Community College) was elected as a College/Postsecondary National Officer.
Luis Maldonado of Middle Creek High School in Wake County was honored as a National Outstanding Educator of the Year, four students qualified to compete in the World Skills Competition in Kazan, Russia in 2019, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College was honored as a recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award, and several scholarships were awarded to our members.