Ask Tim

The experts who design every contest of the SkillsUSA Championships are dedicated to ensuring that every student member has the right skills to compete and start a career. They've updated the technical standards manual for this year's competitions (2005). Will you be ready?

It may sound like an obvious tip, but according to SkillsUSA Championships experts, it’s often overlooked: Read the rules. If you get the current SkillsUSA Championships Technical Standards and read your contest’s rules, you will have an immediate edge on the competition.

That tip is just one of many common threads in an annual survey of the industry and education experts who design the national competitions. Here’s another: Check the website at Starting each November, contest updates are posted so competitors can get the latest news. Frequent changes follow, so keep checking.

And if you want to be the best in the nation, expect the top level of competition to be at a higher level than the state. It’s surprising, but some come to nationals expecting to see the exact type of project they worked on at their state contest.

Finally, listen to the experts. In case you don’t know the skilled and dedicated people behind the 2005 SkillsUSA Championships, SkillsUSA Champions magazine made the connection for you. What competencies were added to the new technical standards book? Where can competitors go for additional information on the competencies to be tested? And — based on a brand-new requirement you may not know — what will be done with the résumés submitted by contestants? Read on!


Principles of Technology
David Michael, Lex La-Ray Tech Center (Mo.)
Be sure to follow the guidelines in the technical standards when writing your discussion paper. The discussion paper and the presentation need to contain more technical data. Use equations and mathematical analysis to support your findings. Contestants overall need more experience in making their presentations. Make sure you have five copies of your discussion paper with you when the orientation session is held. These are handed in at that time for judges to review and grade.

Precision Machining Technology
Diyana Hrzic, AMT - Association for Manufacturing Technology
For more information, competitors can visit We will be launching our new site and will have all info there at

Commercial Baking
Brenda Helsing, Retailer's Bakery Association
For information in addition to the new technical standards manual, contestants can call the Retailer s Bakery Association s (RBA) Education Department and ask for more details. Also, RBA makes available a sample  written test to instructors. RBA will notify our membership that the students have provided résumés. If any baker would like to receive a résumé for their area, it will be passed along to them.

Telecommunications Cabling
Dick Glass, Electronics Technicians Association International
We have updated the Telecommunications Cabling knowledge examination and the hands-on practical examination assessments, merging those evolved for the 2003 and 2004 contests with the existing ETA Data Cabling Installer competencies (DCIC). Competitors can go to the ETA website ( to check out the data cabling competencies. They are presented as major categories of knowledge, then as categories including the individual items or subcategories of knowledge and skills, and as verbalized competencies. We also show a lab equipment listing that is aimed at school instructors.

Down, but definitely not out
Tom Hinman, a graphic communications student at H.C. Wilcox Technical High School in Meriden, Conn., was hit head-on by a drunk driver in April 2004. The accident broke his left leg in five places, his pelvis in two and his right ankle. Yet, Hinman still found the strength to compete at nationals in June, calling the experience "awesome." His courage in the face of a seemingly impossible challenge is a great example of a true champion.

Team Problem Solving
Diane Swenson, Montachusett Regional Vo-Tech High School (Mass.)
There are two parts to the competition: at-home project and at-nationals project. The team does not receive details about Part 2 until they are at nationals. For the at-home project, be creative in reviewing and thinking of your response to the problem and preparation of your presentation.

Remember, all team members must participate in the development of the presentation. The team does not have to be from the same shop, just the same school or school district. At the national competition, remember standard SkillsUSA requirements, such as clothing, no names showing and so on.

The problem will be building something, but it s different each year. Consider learning at home about building structures, how structures hold weight, how to create height in the structure, and how to work with small miscellaneous items such as pencils, toothpicks, craft sticks, clay, glue, paper clips and elastics. Judges may be walking around while the team is solving the problem. Again, teams do not have to be from the same shop, just the same school or school district.  In solving the problem, the team has the flexibility to talk [to one another], move around and do what is necessary to work together, but the team will be constrained to a designated area size.

Automotive Service Technology
Susan Christophersen, GM Service Parts Operations/ACDelco
There is increased emphasis on environmental health and safety in the workplace, and we have incorporated that in our contest. Also, the use of electronic service manuals (on the computer) rather than paper manuals is directly in line with changes in the industry.

Competitors can find electronic service information on the Internet. All vehicle manufacturers offer subscriptions to this as well as some other companies:, and

For more about environmental health and safety, visit:, and Many companies offer ASE [Automotive Service Excellence] test preparation information both in book form and as a computer-based training program. Go to for more information. We will use the contestant résumés as part of the requirements for the job interview segment of the contest.

Bob Schoenherr, Cisco Systems Inc.
We will be adding a technical phone support piece to the professionalism judging criteria. Competitors can find more information on the competencies being tested on the website at:, or check out the frequently asked questions: Our FAQ file shows contestants which mistakes are made most often. We have been using student résumés since our first year as a piece of the professionalism [criteria]. They must email us résumés (by June 5). Our Human Resources department then scores the résumés using the PDP rubric (see SkillsUSA s Professional Development Program, Level 3).

Prepared Speech
Craig Haugsness, Kansas Department of Education
The only rule change is to confirm that a podium or lectern will not be used in the Prepared Speech contest. To be successful, contestants need to thoroughly review the rules for the contest; write a thoughtful, strong speech; and practice, practice, practice. They should seek out as many opportunities to present their speech to real, live audiences. The best place to get more information and the chance to practice will be with a contestant s state association and local school. Student-submitted résumés will be shared based on industry requests.

Action Skills
Bob Larson, Penta Career Center (Ohio)
Special needs students need clear and precise information and guidance from start to finish, and it is the responsibility of the advisor to provide that. Advisors should attend the contestant meeting with their students to clarify things and prepare them to compete. Advisors can also alleviate the problem of contestants not having enough material prepared to make the minimum five-minute presentation. Some only last three to four minutes. When advisors take the responsibility and provide the guidance needed to have the best experience possible, the contestants come away knowing that win or lose, they have done the best that they can.

Speaking for all ages
During the 2004 national conference, two Prepared Speech contestants were the youngest and oldest registered competitors in the contest. Eleanor Murtagh, age 14, attends Minuteman Tech in Lexington, Mass. Ann Voyles, 67 years young, came from Metro Technology Center-South Bryant in Oklahoma. When the medals were presented, one of these champions gained another distingction by winning the gold: Voyles.

Lillian Hoyos, The Stanley Works
The technical committee sends competitors CDs with tips on what is expected. Some detailed masonry skills were added in the new technical standards. Window flashing was also added. TeamWorks requires each team to do a presentation on how they plan to complete the project, which is intended to simulate the real-world experience of bidding on jobs. Résumés will be reviewed as someone planning to hire a mason, carpenter, plumber or electrician would. A new requirement for 2005: Teams will need at least two of their team members to have OSHA certification prior to competition. For every additional member with the OSHA certification, points will be awarded to the team. To get the OSHA certification test, go to:

Bryan Light, Southern Brick Institute
The project will be judged with a great deal of importance slanted toward quality. The written portion of the competition and the speed of the competitor will not compensate for technical mistakes in the construction process. While understanding the reasons for a particular design, and the rate in which a student can erect it is important, the poor quality that is now commonplace in the industry must be addressed. My advice to this year s contestants is to find a pace that will allow you to give close attention to detail. Speed of construction will come in time.

Community Service
Patrick Kirby, The Timberland Co.
We want to emphasize the importance of clearly articulating the degree of impact community projects have had. Competitors should review the Kellogg Foundation s Logic Model Development Guide ( for tips on measuring the outputs, outcomes and overall impact of their community service projects. This guide includes a simple example of a logic model (the thinking beyond why the project took place and behind what impact was sought from the outset) and some good ideas for how to develop clear and measurable outcomes. Remember, you are measuring the degree to which your activity has improved the original situation.

Architectural Drafting
Tom Bendorf, The Estopinal Group Inc.
At the orientation prior to the contest, competitors must decide whether to use computer or manual board drafting to solve elements of the contest. A 31 D2-inch disk is addressed in the technical standards. The technical committee will continue to provide these. Since many computers no longer have this drive available, we will permit USB flash drives and recordable CDs.

Residential Wiring
Ken Haden, National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee
Requirements were added in reaction to increased demand in residences for structured cabling systems that support home data and telecommunications networks and the distribution of broadband services. For information, refer to the following sources: Complete Data Cabling Installers Certification, available from Prentice Hall, 1-800-282-0693; Residential Network Cabling (, 1-877-833-5524; and Configuring and Installing Structured Wiring Systems, available soon from NJATC ( Sources on the Internet: VDV Academy Wiring Self-Study Program (; Network Cabling Help (; and An Educator s Guide to School Networks ( Contestant résumés will be forwarded to their local IBEW/NECA training centers for possible apprenticeship recruitment.

Pride of the family
Many students have family come with them to the SkillsUSA Cahmpionships for encouragement. Colorado's Justin Dignan brought his own cheering section. Ten close relatives drove 600 miles from the Denver area to see him compete in Kansas City. "As soon as they heard about it, they all decided they wanted to go," says the Electronics Technology contestant, whose mother ordered the attention-grabbing T-shirts. "Everyone wanted their picture taken with them and wished me good luck. It was pretty cool."

Dental Assisting
Anna Long, Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center
Added to the technical standards: infection control, moisture control, disinfection and sterilization, dental instruments and accessories, impression materials, laboratory procedures, dental cements, inventory management and radiation. For more information, we recommend a desk copy of the latest edition of Torres and Ehrlich s Modern Dental Assisting. Never forget that each contestant is a winner. Relax and enjoy the experience.

Opening and Closing Ceremonies
Lisa Romheiser
Contestants will be required to wear their official contest uniform to their contestant meeting. Only the president or one team representative of each team will be allowed in the contestant orientation meeting. The president or the one team representative must turn in a one-page, typewritten résumé for each of their team members at the contestant orientation meeting.

A penalty of up to 5 points will be assessed for failure to submit a one-page, typewritten résumé for each team member at the time of the contestant orientation meeting.

Please note the word change from previous year's script. The president used to say "all of the components comprise our emblem. It now reads, "all of the components CONSTITUTE our emblem."

The judges from last year made these helpful suggestions:

Do not rush the commas
Use soft, natural movements
Be enthusiastic
Look at the speaker
Take command of the room
Enunciation and pronunciation (t's, "our" vs. "are", and golden)
Watch the silent signals that they do not distract from the performance (Ex., Clicking heels)
Know where the pieces go on the table setup accurately!
"In Unison" means all must speak. End of story

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SkillsUSA Champions | Winter 2005 | Volume 39, No. 2
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