Montgomery County student excels at state conference
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (April 21, 2006) - Christine Williams is a math whiz, so much so, that she serves as a tutor to other Montgomery County High School students where she is a junior. But put a band saw in her hands, and she becomes a whiz of a different kind thanks to her wood working classes at the Montgomery Co. Area Technology Center (ATC) and a student organization known as SkillsUSA.
Williams was one of nearly 900 SkillsUSA members from across the state who attended the organization’s state conference and program competition held April12-15.
The national non-profit group serves over a quarter-million secondary and postsecondary students in 50 states and three U.S. territories that are enrolled in career and technical education programs. Ky. SkillsUSA members number approximately 5,600. The event is a prelude to the national conference held annually in Kansas City, MO. First place finishers in each category win the chance to compete on the national level in June.
Education Cabinet Deputy Secretary Laura E. Owens welcomed the students during opening ceremonies and told them of the coming job opportunities in the state.
“According to the Kentucky Occupational Outlook report conducted by the Office of Employment and Training, the state’s economy is expected to increase by over 316,000 new jobs from 2002 through 2012,” said Owens. “An additional 445,000 job vacancies will likely occur as workers leave or separate from various occupations by way of retirements, promotions, or transfers within occupations. This translates into 76,000 jobs per year through 2012 to be filled by educated and trained workers.”
This year’s state conference also brought more than 30 educational institutions, business and industry sponsors, and technical colleges from around the state and region together to the event to offer almost $700,000 in scholarships and prizes.
Ky. SkillsUSA Director Steve Phillippi said this year’s conference was the largest of its kind in over 10 years.
“It’s been quite some time since we have had this kind of attendance at the state level and never have we had the amount of scholarship and prize money offered for our state conference,” he said. “This competition gives students an opportunity to network with each other, get a look at a postsecondary education or apprenticeship program opportunities, while demonstrating the interest business and industry has in the workforce of tomorrow.”
The competition phase of the conference involved leadership skills, such as prepared speeches and organizational abilities. The more than 60 hands-on events consisted of nearly every program area connected with career and technical education ranging from welding and carpentry to culinary arts and robotics.
Williams’ specialty was cabinet making, an event where she, along with half a dozen other competitors, was given a blue print of the project they were to construct within a specific time allotment.
“It was tough, but I had a lot of fun competing,” said Williams. “This kind of competition lets you know how you stack up against other students in the same program areas.”
According to Phillippi, Williams is the first female, since his affiliation began with SkillsUSA in the 1970’s, that has won this competitive event.
“I really didn’t think too much about being the first girl to win,” said Williams. “I just wanted to do the best I could.”
Thanks to her abilities, Williams will get to make the trip to Kansas City in June and has earned a $5000 scholarship to the New Hampshire Community and Technical Institute, a $250 scholarship to Jefferson Community and Technical College and a DeWalt cordless drill.
Jeff McCarty is Williams’ ATC instructor and said the state conference is a great confidence builder for all who attend, whether they win an event or not.
“I’ve seen so many students step up their abilities in preparing for this competition,” he said. “They realize at this level there is no room for errors and they all gain something from the experience.”
While promoting career and technical education is at the forefront of the conference, business and industry participants find it a stomping ground for prospective employees in the coming years.
“It has been projected that we shall be dealing with a shortage of approximately 40,000 welders within the next few years,” said Lou Vitucci, district sales manager for Lincoln Electric- a manufacturer of welding equipment and one of the sponsors of SkillsUSA. “Industry and education must do all it can now to help alleviate this reality. SkillsUSA encourages the development of welders through its annual contests and, at the same time, helps to introduce the students to current technologies.”
From welders to cabinet makers, SkillsUSA has promoted technical education since 1965 when it was known as the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America, Inc. (VICA) In 1995 the name change came as a way to evolve with the future of the vocational education.
With all the excitement of the conference still fresh in her mind, Williams hasn’t had much time think about her future. She’s back to being that math whiz, only with an extra credential hanging near a cabinet that she probably built herself.
The Kentucky Education Cabinet coordinates learning programs from P-16, and manages and supports training and employment functions in the Department for Workforce Investment. For more information about our programs, visit www.educationcabinet.ky.gov or www.workforce.ky.gov, or call 502-564-6606, ext. 177