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Change Agents: Our Insider’sGuide to Championships

Technology is transforming industries and their expectations for employees. Experts make sure SkillsUSA’s program keeps up, from contests to classrooms

On the Web

  • The complete list of SkillsUSA Championships events can be found here.
  • Get the latest contest updates from the technical committees here.
  • Prepare for competition with Contest Singles. Download only what you need; in most cases, it includes the actual project from the 2008 national event.

Change. We heard that word a lot during the presidential campaign season. Both in the primaries and during the national election, every candidate campaigned on the promise of “change.”

Change is something a lot of people talk about, yet when it comes, sometimes it takes us by surprise. In these uncertain economic times, it pays to do everything possible to be prepared for changes in your field of study.

This is one reason the experts behind each SkillsUSA contest — called technical committees — have begun revising the SkillsUSA Championships Technical Standards on an annual basis.

“These days, technology changes so quickly, it’s important that our competitions represent the realities of today’s work environment,” says Ada Kranenberg, director of the SkillsUSA Championships.

With the elections over and many people focused on what the next four years may bring, the technical committee chairs were asked to describe their particular industry. How has it changed over the last four years, and how is it likely to change in the coming “term”? And in light of that, how do they make sure their SkillsUSA contests are kept current with ever-changing industry standards?

Of course, one thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of preparation. Time and again, our contest chairs emphasize the need for competitors to read the contest rules thoroughly.

So, be aware of how things change, but also pay attention to the things that don’t.

How has technology in your particular industry changed in the past four years, and what’s ahead for the next four?

Welding

The last four years have seen a vast advancement in new technology in welding equipment and processes. There has been a tremendous improvement in the electronics associated with welding equipment. There is a serious effort for more automation in the welding processes. The next four years will see a serious effort to continue the effort for automation, in light of the prediction of a serious shortage of skilled welders. (The American Welding Society has predicted a shortage of 200,000 welders by 2010.) There will also be major advances in welding previously unweldable metals.
— Gene Hornberger, Welding Consultant LLC

Electronics Applications
The consumer industry is in a constant change of technology. Some of the more recent changes include the switch from analog television to HDTV. We've changed from CRT (vacuum tube) picture tubes to flat-screen plasma and LCD television screens. Computer monitors are now almost exclusively LCD type monitors, and the old glass CRTs are essentially extinct. Mobile telephones have actually become mini-mobile computers, allowing direct access to the Internet. And let's not forget GPS. These units, which initially provided directions and a large, expensive screen, have now become small, handheld mobile devices that provide explicit voiced details to one's destination. They provide instant traffic information, incorporate MP3 players and will provide slideshow entertainment.

What does the future hold? February 2009 will mark a historic day in the electronics industry. All analog television transmissions will cease, and only digital transmissions will be available. Mobile phones, GPS devices and the Internet will continue to integrate their features and capabilities among one another. Development and testing of electronically controlled automobiles is moving rapidly to become a reality. This will allow hands-free driving from one location to another as a result of electronic control signals embedded in our highways.
— Don Hatton, Hatton Enterprises

Related Technical Math
We now have a global world with the advent of electronic devices. Anyone can obtain information instantly wherever he or she is in the world. Thus science and mathematics become more important every moment, so the needfor a competitive position in this world — We need more science andmathematics. Students having the opportunity to be a participant in the SkillUSA Related Technical Math Test, at the national, state, regional andlocal levels, are given a glimpse of the type of mathematical understanding that will be necessary in our competitive world.
— Len Mrachek, University of Minnesota

Marine Service Technology
The recreational marine industry has made tremendous technological strides over the past four years. With the implementation of EPA emission regulations came more efficient and reliable engines. Fuel injection and the controlling electronics have all but created products that can help diagnose their own problems with sophisticated diagnostic and warning systems that include satellite based systems on some models. The advances in electronics have also created new "fly by wire" control systems that eliminate the old mechanical control cables on larger high-end models. In the past four years, due to materials and component advancements, we have also seen outboard engine models that have grown to 350 horsepower.

The next four years will continue to see advancements in materials, manufacturing and electronics. We will see advancements in all areas resulting in continued improvements in the quality and reliability of the products we build.
— John Eaton, American Suzuki Motor Corp.

Telecommunications Cabling
The telecommunication cabling industry is becoming more and more fiber-optics saturated as the world searches for more and more bandwidth. This is predicted to grow exponentially in the next few years. Fiber optics is also becoming more efficient, carrying more lines on a single fiber and greater bandwidth on those lines. New product development, such as bend-optimized fiber, is also creating advances for technical workers in this field.
— Teresa Maher, Electronics Technician Association International

Basic Health Care Skills
Healthcare is where it is at! Do you like the challenge of applying science and math skills, using your communicative talents, not to mention your marketing value if you can speak a second language? Check out the job listings in your local area, or nationwide for that matter. Nursing, dentistry, lab, physical therapy, radiology, nutrition, veterinarian, emergency medicine, pharmacy, and many other opportunities are in demand now and in the future. What better way to counter the recession? Health occupations class is your gateway into a healthcare provider profession.

The Basic Health Care Skills contest will culminate your year of studying and practicing newly acquired skills. We will continue to have 10 to 12 testing stations incorporating the entry-level core standards of: academics, communication, career knowledge, employability/team work, ethical/legal issues, and safety practices.
— Terry Beasley, Missouri

Marine Service Technology
The technical committee and judges are all members of the marine industry. We work together to provide a wide variety of technical challenges.
— Eaton

Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration
We have seen electronics become more and more common in our industry, and we expect more and more of the same in the future. Electronics is no longer just used in controlling HVACR systems, but now it is used in equipment communication and the driving of motors. Another change has been in the increasing of efficiencies as mandated by the federal government. SEERs of 13 and above on air conditioning and heat pump equipment, and furnaces of 80 percent AFUEs and above, have also been large changes to our industry in the past few years.
— Bob Mikell, Carrier Corp.

Welding Fabrication
In the past four years, our industry's technology has changed quite a bit. New technologies are researched and invented every year from the manufacturers in the industry. Using more compact designs, waveform technology and weld monitoring computer programs has allowed our industry to benefit greatly in the areas of safety, quality and productivity. The next four years will continue to bring faster, safer, and more efficient ways to fabricate products through the newest technologies.
— Jason Schmidt, Lincoln Electric Co

TeamWorks
The building industry in the past four years has started to see buildings as one whole system. All components, carpentry, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, etc., are all interconnected, and that has to be considered in the building process and must work together. The next four years will bring increase of green practices, considering the durability and sustainability of building materials, and there will be a focus on energy efficiency.
— Lillyan Hoyos, The Stanley Works

How do you ensure your competition is kept current with changing industry standards?

Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration
Most of our Skills USA competition events incorporate the latest changes in the equipment supplied by that particular manufacturer. By donations and contributions we are able to provide our contestants with the latest tools of our trade and to keep them current with industry standards. We are, however, judging our contestants on their basic skills and knowledge and not on changing industry standards.
— Bob Mikell, Carrier Corp.

Welding Fabrication
Our competition is kept current with changing industry standards by having the expertise of the manufacturers and end users on the Welding Fabrication committee. The manufacturers leading in technological advances and the end users that use these technologies to build products keep the Welding Fabrication competition on the leading edge of technology.
— Schmidt

Related Technical Math
Each year, a new test is prepared to reflect to changing mathematics andscience curriculum and requirements for the global economy.
— Mrachek

Welding
The SkillsUSA Welding committee is closely aligned with the American Welding Society. Most of the members of the SkillsUSA Welding committee are members of the American Welding Society. The American Welding Society writes the standards for industry, and we have first-hand access to this information. The SkillsUSA Technical Competencies for Welding are in agreement with American Welding Society Standards. We are fortunate to have this relationship.
— Hornberger

Marine Service Technology
The technical committee members, competition participants and judges are all members of the marine industry. We have participation from the American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC), which implements industry standards and certification programs:

  • Mercury/Mercruiser Marine: outboard and stern drive propulsion systems
  • Suzuki Outboards: outboard engines,
  • Yamaha Outboards: outboard engines
  • Volvo Penta: stern drive propulsion systems

We all work together provide a wide variety of technical challenges for the competitors every year.
— Eaton

TeamWorks
The TeamWorks competition keeps current with changing industry standards by having technical committee members that are part of the building industry. We have owners of building and remodeling companies, consultants in the construction industry, construction training experts, and individuals from tool manufacturing corporations. We all see new techniques and tools on a daily basis, and we constantly ask ourselves how we can incorporate them into the competition to bring them to the students and the instructors.
— Hoyos

Electronics Applications
The Electronics Applications competition is sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association and its many members. These members are the actual manufacturers who are designing and manufacturing electronic products of the future. The active participation in the competition of the industry members ensures the competition demonstrates the current industry technology and promotes to attending instructors the changes they must make in their curriculum to assure students have employability skills when they complete their course.
— Hatton

Telecommunications Cabling
The Telcom Cabling contest adds a little more fiber each year for the past four years and changes things like connectors as they are adopted in the field, with an eye to the TIA 568 cabling standard at all times.
— Maher

How does your competition prepare the next generation of leaders?

Opening and Closing Ceremonies
The Opening and Closing Ceremonies Contest prepares the next generation of leaders by perfecting the competitor’s skills of public speaking and teamwork. The contest prepares students for any career area. The skills used help in getting, and keeping, a job. The competition emphasizes not only personal grooming, but also stage presence in front of an audience. The team must be able to conduct a business meeting using correct pronunciation and the enunciation of words. They must have good voice control and be able to carry themselves in a professional manner. This seven-member team must be able to work together as a team as well as individually.
— Lisa Romeiser, Eastern Monroe Career Center, New York

Quiz Bowl
Quiz Bowl, as a continuously evolving competition, encourages the involvement of members from all levels in the future direction for the contest. All competitors and coaches are asked to submit questions through the Web site quizbowl.wflboces.org, which sharpens the skills of competitors while sharing new ideas. As teams prepare for competition at the local, state, and national levels, they develop team skills that last far into their careers. Past competitors serve on the national team, demonstrating the communication and academic skills that earned them medals. Quiz Bowl celebrates academic excellence through its subject matter and builds a sense of fair play through competition.
— Chip Harris, Tennessee State University

Marine Service Technology
The SkillsUSA program gives us some of the best people that are genuinely interested in success within our industry. Our goal is to challenge them with technical tasks and real world problems that require a dedication to learning. In doing so, we hope to give them the tools that they need to be successful not only in the marine industry, but in whatever they do.
— Eaton

Outstanding Chapter
The Outstanding Chapter competition gives the members the opportunity to improve their communication skills, both orally and in writing. Contestants must learn to read, interpret and follow directions exactly to score well. Contestants learn the techniques of layout and design. They must learn how to make the books appealing to the eye, to tell the story of their local chapter in a way to convince judges to give them good scores. They must learn neatness and accuracy is very important just as it is in the workplace. They learn how to write and prepare an effective résumé. Contestants learn to improve their interviewing skills by answering questions from a committee of judges.
— Bill Mann, Florida

Chapter Business Procedure
The Chapter Business Procedure Contest is one of the most comprehensive of all leadership contests held for SkillsUSA members each year. While other leadership contests more narrowly focus on one or two main areas of leadership skills, such as speaking, etc, CBP incorporates all of the skill sets into one contest.

Skills honed in this contest include:

a.

Public Speaking Skills. Each member of the team must demonstrate the ability to stand and speak clearly and concisely on an issue presented in the contest. Team members are judged on volume, clarity, organization of thought, and germaneness to the issue at hand.

b.

Problem Solving and Critical Thinking Skills. The team must work together to handle all the items of business presented to it by the contest committee in an organized and logical manner. Members must be able to perform all of the different kinds of motions and handle them properly according to Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised. They must distinguish the types of motions, and decide whether they are debatable, amendable, and what type of vote is required. Ultimately, they must make decisions based on logical conclusions.

c.

Analytical Skills. The team is given a set of minutes and a treasurer's report. They must discern from these documents any errors or contradictions and correct them, as well as deduce any reports or actions that need to be acted upon based upon the information provided.

d.

Team Work Skills. The group of six members must work together to carry out all of the business required during the contest problem. It will require some to take up different sides of the issue for more effective debate. Each must know when to debate and when not to. Furthermore, the test score is based upon the six-member team average, so a low score brings the whole team down. Each must pull his or her own weight.

e.

Meeting Skills. Most obviously, students competing in this contest must demonstrate the ability to run a complete meeting efficiently and effectively. They must develop an agenda based on an accepted order of business and follow it through to completion, handling reports and all five types of motions within 8 to 10 minutes.

By competing in the Chapter Business Procedure contest, students are learning and demonstrating all of the effective skills needed for effective leaders in all types of settings. Nearly every organization needs someone who can: communicate effectively with the public and business partners; think through problems and make effective decisions based on fact and logical conclusions; analyze information, breaking it down into understandable form; work with diverse groups in reaching a common goal; and run meetings that are quick and purposeful. By developing these skills, students are most assuredly giving themselves an advantage in the labor market.
— Mark Johnson, Pittsburg State University, Kansas

Principles of Technology
The Principles of Technology (POT) competition is an occupationally related competition in which the competitors demonstrate their physics knowledge by writing a technical paper and performing a 10- to 15-minute demonstration of the principle. Great communication and presentation skills are essential to being successful in any occupation and are at the heart of what the POT competition is all about. A comment the contest staff frequently hears from parents, advisors and the competitors themselves is that preparing for this competition gave the students confidence to present themselves and their ideals effectively.
— Scott Watson, Hunter High School, Utah end of story

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SkillsUSA Champions | Winter 2009 | Volume 43, No. 2
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