Students encouraged to join SkillsUSA
Freshmen and sophomores attended inspirational assemblies yesterday about the many career benefits and excitement of being part of SkillsUSA. They were encouraged by Karen Ward, Executive Director of SkillsUSA in Massachusetts and the student officers for the state, and were also introduced to Whittier’s student executive board members.
“Being part of Skills gives students more confidence in themselves to be able to step outside of their comfort zones and do the things they never thought they’d be able to do,” said Lauren Fitzgerald, a junior in Dental Assisting who is Whittier’s first elected SkillsUSA state official. “Each conference is so busy, but so much fun and it gives you memories that will last a lifetime.”
A two-day fall state leadership conference will kickoff the year Nov. 18-20 in Marlborough and there are slots for four freshmen. At the event, they will be grouped with students from other vocational-technical schools and participate in small team activities and workshops conducted by alumni and state officers.
SkillsUSA focuses on building student’s skills and making them career-ready through numerous learning opportunities and district, state and national competitions. It has been a focus at Whittier for many years, but the number of participants and medal winners has recently grown significantly, and an all-school membership was purchased this year, making every student a member.
“Now they need to take the next step and come to a meeting,” said Lauren. Open meetings will be held on a Tuesday each month where students may ask questions about how to get involved. They then take the initiative to work with their vocational-technical teachers to prepare for competitions.
Interested freshmen will prepare with their academic teachers for a Career Choice Commentary and STEM event. To advance to the state competition, sophomores, juniors and seniors must score well on employability and safety tests given at the district competition later in the year. They study through Quizlet and other online tools provided by SkillsUSA.
Last year, 92 Whittier students attended the three-day state contest in Marlborough which had 3,000 participants, the largest educational gathering in Massachusetts. After completing presentations, students were grilled by judges and confidently answered questions about their vocational-technical educations and the impact their careers would have on their communities.
At the awards ceremony, 14 Whittier students won gold medals and advanced to the national event June 25-30 in Louisville, KY, where six students won bronze medals.
Whether they win medals or not, SkillsUSA trains students in the skills employers want -- the soft skills: interviewing, communication, professionalism, and integrity, and the technical skills to be able to excel in their fields, said Lauren.