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Insider's Guide to Competition

All SkillsUSA members are champions, whether they compete or not, whether they win or not. That’s one reason our slogan is “SkillsUSA: Champions at Work.” In this installment of our Insider’s Guide to Competition, the experts who run the national championships tell what they think a champion is. These leaders of industry and education know how to prepare for contests —and how to become a champion after stepping into the world of work.


I feel a champion is one who tries to do the very best and does not get discouraged when challenged; one who faces challenges and works to overcome them; one who, when done with a job, can say with pride, “I have tried to do my very best.”

My very first experience with SkillsUSA was a VICA welding contest in 1969 in Pennsylvania. When I went to an appreciation dinner I was pleasantly surprised to see that the students ran the program, not the teachers as I expected. I was pleased with their attitude. It was “Hey, I am not stupid because I choose a vocational career. I’ m proud to be working with my hands. VICA has also provided me with leadership skills so I can be a better person.” I was sold from that time on.
Gene Hornberger, Arcet Equipment Co.

A champion is made in the heart. There are many photographers who can produce a great image, but can that photographer build a great reputation? In other words, does that individual possess the passion and drive it takes to become successful?

When I first became familiar with SkillsUSA eight years ago, I was literally blown away with the professionalism of both the organization and what they do for the students in terms of career preparation. This event also attracts some of the most talented students in the country. I remember being shocked at how little industry was giving to the state-level competitions in terms of prizes and scholarships. I knew then that something needed to be done to support and encourage these highly talented photographers.

The Center for Digital Imaging Arts (CDIA) at Boston University will continue to offer scholarships to all state and national winners and continue to push industry for bigger and better prizes to recognize the outstanding performance and dedication of our young burgeoning photographers.
Bill Chenaille, Center for Digital Imaging Arts, Boston University

Building Maintenance Technology
A champion is somebody who gives it their all, regardless of the situation. Every awards ceremony from local to national events reminds me why it’s important to stay involved in SkillsUSA
Marvin Miller, Mainstream Career and Technology Center East, Findlay, Ohio

Technical Drafting
A champion is someone who has overly prepared for anything he or she might be tested on.
Dave Espinosa-Aguilar, Autodesk Inc.

CHAMPION AND HERO: Valarae Alexander, 17, arrived at the 2005 SkillsUSA Championships already a success in her field. A First Aid/CPR contestant, she revived a man who'd gone into cardiac arrest at the New York State Fair, where she was volunteering. Now that she's completed the certified first responder program at Syracuse's Central Tech Vocational Center, Alexander's in college, planning to become a neonatal nurse.

Prepared Speech
A champion is someone who can’t quit and who won’t stop trying to improve.

I realized supporting SkillsUSA was important the first time I walked into Bartle Hall and saw the whole place filled with high school and college students working hard to succeed at every technical skill you could name. I could hardly believe the tremendous level of activity and the sterling level of professionalism.
Craig A. Haugsness, Kansas State Department of Education

What is a champion? A contestant who uses knowledge of his or her occupation to apply a focused, step-by-step approach to solving the problem at hand, along with a ready smile and a friendly attitude, is a winner. A professional who exhibits skill and a genuine desire to help others is highly desired by everyone — friends and employers alike.

It seems far too often all you read in the paper or see on TV are bad stories of young people. The first time I was involved with SkillsUSA and saw the thousands of contestants trying with all their might to solve the contest problems, and the additional thousands of young people in their red blazers carrying on the business of SkillsUSA and both groups at the same time having a great time, I realized that the future of our great nation was in good hands. I've experienced that same feeling each year for more than two decades.
Lynn Bosse, Lennox International

Diesel Equipment Technology
What makes a champion? A champion takes the time to access the needs and take proper action. Each individual, as we know, is a champion when he or she comes to the national convention, or for that matter when an individual competes at the state level to attain that step to go to the national convention. Being a member of SkillsUSA is a step in becoming a champion.

Champions take one step after another to move toward being the one at the top of their chosen field. Those who strive to be the best that they can be are champions in their own life and occupation. There is a champion in each and every one of us. How that champion contributes to those around them is entirely up to that individual.

Each national convention is an event that stays in my mind. Without a doubt in one thing that always brings me back is the Awards Ceremony at the close of the week. The students, advisors, industry leaders, parents and national staff all are present to support those students that have made the step to the top three.

The sheer feeling of the students shouting for their state and when a name is put up as a award winner is state of elation that you can't put words to. Each time I hang a medal on a student there is a feeling that comes over me knowing that that student made the next step and is now champion to himself and those watching.

Sam H. Turner, ArvinMeritor Inc.

‘A-ha!’ moments:
When they saw the importance
of SkillsUSA

I realized it was important to support SkillsUSA during a hiring phase at our company. The first five candidates we had apply were utterly unprepared. The sixth person who applied had been a SkillsUSA champion in his state and was thoroughly prepared for the job. It was at that point I realized SkillsUSA was an organization to pay strong attention to.
Dave Espinosa-Aguilar, Autodesk

I realized the importance of SkillsUSA during the awards ceremony when the contestants received their awards. It is a great feeling.
Greg Doster, Whirlpool

There are so many reasons I stay involved. One that I will never forget is while chatting with a postsecondary competitor during a practice session, he stated, “Winning this competition will put $10,000 to $20,000 into my paycheck per year.”
Dick McManus, AZTECH

Power Equipment Technology
A champion is one who continues to move forward even when there are obstacles that appear too large to overcome. It is a desire to continue to improve yourself and to never compromise your beliefs.

It's been over 25 years and it still is an emotional thrill to see someone's face who come and give their all and are recognized for their achievement
Dave Worden, Kohler Co.

In my eyes as a contest chair, champions are those contestants who are self-motivated, intelligent, enjoy a challenge, have a passion for their career and have a great support group around them. They can't wait to attack the problem with what they know, to add to what they need to learn.

A very special event for me happened this summer in August when we brought the gold and silver medal winners and their advisors to San Jose to tour the Cisco campus. After a day of touring, learning what Cisco engineers do and how products are developed and tested, we made our way to a restaurant to debrief and enjoy the evening. At the dinner table, I listened to the knowledge and passion that the medal winners had for internetworking. I felt like a proud father helping these champions along their journey.

Brent Knox, SIGMAnet sales manager, and I reflected on how much improved the contestants were over the years. We would hire any of these medal winners in our own companies if we had the chance due to their overall knowledge and their ability to communicate with others.
Bob Schoenherr, Cisco Systems

Nurse Assisting
A champion is a student who is outstanding in his or her field. SkillsUSA champions go the extra mile. They decide on a goal and go for it in a professional manner by preparation and hard work.

I realize why supporting SkillsUSA is important every time I see the face of a student who wins, be it a breakthrough learning experience or a gold medal.
Kristen Jarvi, Stafford Technical Center, Vermont

A very small percentage of those who are terminated from their jobs are fired because they can’t do the work. Most lose their jobs due to dependability issues or personality flaws. A true champion will realize this and give the development of these qualities the attention they deserve.

At the state SkillsUSA contest two years ago, a young man walked away from his project with over an hour left in the contest and sat down. Sensing a problem, I went over to him, put my arm around his shoulders and asked why he had stopped. His answer was that the project was too hard for him and he would not be able to finish it in time anyway. Among other things, I told him that whether he finished or not, he would feel a lot better about himself, and so would his classmates, if he didn’t quit.

Jeremy Nance, 21, was one of 14 competitors in SkillsUSA’s first Firefighting contest. A student at Manatee (Fla.) Technical Institute, Nance won the silver medal just after graduating from a 10-month firefighter training program and joining his local rescue organization as a volunteer. He’s wanted to be a fireman since he was a little boy, with his uncle and cousins already working in the field.

He returned to his project and of course, he didn’t finish. When time had elapsed, he came over to me, hugged my neck and smiling from ear to ear said, I’ll be back next year.” He’s my kind of guy. I’d give him a job, too.
Bryan Light, Brick SouthEast Inc.

Principles of Technology
All students who make it in SkillsUSA are champions. Those characteristics that make a champion stand out is an individual with a good technical knowledge of their project and its application or use, excellent speaking skills, good posture and excellent writing skills.

The news media often times depicts the worst in our society among young people. SkillsUSA brings out the best in our young people. This is comforting to see and know that many of our young people are going to have a positive impact on our society and technical advancement.
David Michael, Lex-La-Ray Tech Center, Missouri

Dental Assisting
A champion is someone who has taken his or her education seriously, not being satisfied with completing the the tasks to a minimum level of proficiency but working harder to achieve an excellent result, in a minimum amount of time.

I was a part of dental education for over 31 years and had the good fortune to have several students complete in the SkillsUSA dental assisting competition. I understand the sacrifices that students and advisors must make to travel to Kansas City and be prepared to compete in the competition. It is my belief, the competition should be designed to allow the student with the best ‘all around’ skills to have an opportunity to demonstrate those skills and prove their Dental Assisting proficiency. For a student to be a part of SkillsUSA-Dental Assisting, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be recognized for your pursuit of excellence.
Anna Long, Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center, Ohio

Related Technical Math
A champion is an individual who stands out above the rest of the participants and exhibits this by scoring well above the class.

My reviewing team, which includes members of the SAT test, have indicated that applied mathematics problems are essential and vital for students’ understanding of math. Since the Related Technical Math Test includes these type of problems, we feel we are enhancing this type of curriculum.
Len Mrachek, University of Minnesota

Motorcycle Service Technology
In my eyes, a champion is a person who is willing to seek the answers to the questions he or she does not already know … a person who pursues excellence in all that he or she does, not just in a chosen field, but in relationships and hobbies as well.

The moments of realization of the importance of SkillsUSA support is never ending. At first it started to materialize at the beginning of my first national contest in 2004. Seeing faces of state champions with scared looks, blended in with looks of confidence, many on the same face at the same time. Again at the sponsored breakfast, their sense of accomplishment, and the curiosity of how well they performed. Their feedback on the event they participated so well in. Finally back at MMI, where I teach Motorcycle Service Technology, the prior participants following their dreams and attaining an education in our chosen field. The student is why it is so important to me, we are all students all of the time.
Michael O’Neil, Universal Technical Institute Inc.

Precision Machining Technology
A champion is someone who can achieve maximum results by making a concentrated effort to combine and apply the knowledge from training received and experience gained at the regional contest.

I realized it was important to be involved during a search of the WorldSkills website. I came to the conclusion that the USA is no longer one of the frontrunners in the WorldSkills contest. Therefore we have to make renewed efforts to give our contestants a better chance to succeed. During that search I was surprised to find that my brother, John Huber, has been involved with UKskills and was a judge of the pastry chef contest at the 2001 Seoul Korea WorldSkills Competition.
Paul Huber, Industrial Precision Components Corp.

Major Appliance Technology
A champion has personality and the ability to complete contest skills as required.
Greg Doster, Whirlpool Corp.

Total Quality Management
A champion to me is an individual who passionately supports an idea or effort that positively influences others to higher standards and results.

I realized SkillsUSA was important when witnessing the awards ceremony where teams who did not think they mastered the process or challenge received acknowledgement for their efforts
Ruben Coronado, Exide Technologies

Graphic Communications
A champion in this endeavor is one who is prepared, focused and realistic, who cares, is willing to learn, is accommodating and inquisitive, and who knows him/herself.

When I visit with industry representatives I realize the need for and the support of SkillsUSA. It is a grand way to supply the technically minded, technically prepared individuals that the industry needs.

With the changing demographics in this country, and the anticipated vast number of retirements in the next 20 years due to the baby boomer generation reaching 60 years of age, it is extremely important role that SkillsUSA plays.
Jesus Rodriguez, Pittsburg State University

Chapter Business Procedure
Champions have the ability to debate issues and reach logical conclusions, a thorough knowledge of parliamentary procedure and the ability to use it properly in running a chapter meeting. They are also able to work well as a team and interact dynamically with one another.

It is a great feeling to see students aspire to be and become more than they thought they could be when you see a local student member develop self-confidence and build self esteem through participation in SkillsUSA programs.
Mark L. Johnson, Pittsburg State University

Automated Manufacturing Technology
Whenever I am asked questions regarding SkillsUSA, it is very hard to remove my emotional feeling about [the organization]. In saying that, I will try to be as brief as possible. Not necessarily in this order, what makes a champion is desire, motivation, hard work and the way one responds to a challenge.
Dick McManus, AZTECH Educational Resources

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SkillsUSA Champions | Winter 2006 | Volume 40, No. 2
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