Showing off their skills
As much of the world was waiting in anticipation of the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer, another exciting 10-day competition was underway.
In June, the largest skill competition in the world, known as the 2021 SkillsUSA Championships, was held, and two students from Kirkwood Community College medaled in their individual skills challenges. Christopher Funk from Monticello received the college gold medal in automotive service technology, and John Fetty from Pella won a college silver medal in carpentry. Both men were pleasantly surprised by their results.
“On the day of the SkillsUSA virtual awards ceremony, I wasn’t there to hear the announcement that I had won gold,” Funk said. “My teacher, who was watching the ceremony, called and broke the news to me. I was quite surprised, to say the least!”
Over 3,700 students from across the country competed in the SkillsUSA showcase of career and technical education (CTE) skills. Competitors demonstrated excellence in technical, workplace and personal skills in 107 hands-on assessments in fields such as robotics, automotive technology, drafting, criminal justice, public speaking and aviation maintenance. The competitions were evaluated by 650 businesses that judged each contestant by industry standards for entry-level workers in the field.
Funk and Fetty were two of the more than 1,100 medal winners from this year’s championships, and their course work and involvement in the SkillsUSA at Kirkwood prepared them for competitions and for their future career paths.
“The courses I took definitely helped me to be successful,” Fetty said. “My professor, Steve Hanisch, showed us skills on what to do on job sites, how to actually build things and how to organize a site and manage people. It was very helpful.”
SkillsUSA is one of several career and technical student organizations (CTSOs) that provide students the opportunity to learn, grow and gain leadership experience in a particular field or industry. More than just clubs or extracurricular activities, CTSOs are integral to high-performing CTE programs.
Hanisch, associate professor of carpentry at Kirkwood, noted that being a part of SkillsUSA and participating in competitions is a great way for students to show what they have learned from their extensive studies.
“The SkillsUSA competitions are one of the best ways for our students to show how hard they have worked and prepared for these opportunities,” he said. “This competition is extremely revealing in a way that my feedback and assessment can’t measure. Students know that going into these contests, and that is extremely motivating. SkillsUSA competitors really put themselves out there to be compared with the best.”
Since 1965, SkillsUSA has partnered education with industry to offer CTSO chapters across the country to high schools, middle schools and colleges. Like other CTSOs, SkillsUSA promotes high-quality CTE opportunities and competitions to students to help strengthen not only their individual skills, but also the future workforce overall.
“CTSOs provide an opportunity for students to apply their classroom knowledge and advance their development into highly skilled individuals within the workforce,” said Chris Dzurick, education consultant at the Iowa Department of Education.
Currently, quality skilled trade workers are in high demand, and involvement in CTSOs and CTE programming can lead to a successful career.
“There is quite literally no better time in history than now to enter into any skilled trade,” Hanisch said. “The shortage of skilled workers is well documented, and the opportunities are vast.”
For Funk and Fetty, their career paths look promising. After eight months in the carpentry course and an extensive background in construction, Fetty received his diploma in May and is now busy working for a production framer on houses and buildings. He would ultimately like to open his own business, and he foresees himself in the future managing projects and completing structures throughout the building process – from framing to finishing.
Similarly, Funk also earned his associate of applied science degree in automotive technology in May. He would eventually like to study mechanical engineering and electrical diagnostics but, for now, he wants to get more hands-on experience.
“At this point, I am working on getting experience in the field,” he said. “I really want to be competent in all aspects of automotive repair.”
For more information on SkillsUSA and other career and technical student organizations in Iowa, visit the Iowa Department of Education’s website.