The SkillsUSA Experience

Skills03One experience with SkillsUSA and you will be an alumni SkillsUSA student, volunteer, or staff member.  SkillsUSA is a premier student oriented organization.

Any words I write now will fall short of explaining being part of the National SkillsUSA experience.

SkillsUSA was once known as the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America or VICA for short. Started in 1964, VICA was created by students and teachers in Nashville, Tennessee. VICA was created to promote leadership skills among students in their chosen vocations. In 1966 VICA's first magazine was published. In the coming years, over three and a half members would join VICA and that number is continuously growing each year. In 1977 VICA alumni purchased land that the National Leadership Center will later sit on. Skills02The year 1998, VICA changed its name to SkillsUSA-VICA, but wasn't made official until 1999. September 1st, the name was condensed to SkillsUSA, its current title. Now, SkillsUSA has won 5 awards, of which the Oracle and the IACET, are just two. SkillsUSA has an Alumni Association, which is used to promote SkillsUSA through those who used to be in the program.

I am a Technical Committee Chair for just one competition: Broadcast News Production. The competition takes many volunteers and sponsors to pull together. Last year 22 teams competed in this one competition. (http://www1.schooltube.com/MediaSearchResults.aspx)

Broadcast News Production is a four person team competition. Teamwork is so vital to the success of the production. The team consists of 2 anchors, a floor manager and a director/technical director. The students are provided newswire, video and a set.

The teams prepare a rundown for a newscast. Each team has twenty minutes on the competition floor to produce a three minute live production. The NewTek’s TriCaster has been selected as the state and national standard for production for the competitions. The TriCaster (http://www.newtek.com/tricaster/) allows the technical director to switch, add graphics, add video, mix audio, and record to a built-in hard drive.  Three cameras are set and the floor manager gives the cues to the anchors to keep them on the right camera and notified them when they're on video. The anchors keep the pace and stories right at three minutes. The teams must turn in a resume and rundown. They must be in professional dress.

Skills01Imagine your local newscast you watch every day. That is what these teams are producing. You think, they have had practice; it should be a simple competition, right? Wrong. Every newscast has its own potential issues. At any given time a director could choose the wrong camera, an anchor could mispronounce a word or get a story out of order; a floor manager could direct to the wrong camera or not cue the anchors when they are back from video. In addition, the judges look for anchors that are believable, so over rehearsing to the point of becoming robotic is not the answer. Judges can also spot teams that are not serious about their rundowns or news story choices. A lot of work goes into the story choices and the way they are tied together. What makes you tune into the local or national news you watch? That is what the judges are looking for!

When I arrive in Kansas City, I focus on the final details and set up of the competition room. In my walks around the convention floor to turn in papers and attend meetings, I have witnessed other focused volunteers and staff pulling together more competitions. The floor just explodes with full kitchens, cosmetology work stations, computer labs, science labs, manufacturing, automotive, vendors, and entertainment.

Next, the students arrive. Striving to maintain professionalism all the while being under competition pressure, tests, judges, lines, anxiousness and the adrenaline that rushes with excitement, they practice that one last time before demonstrating their skill of choice, knowing they are competing against the best from all the other states.

From Opening Ceremonies to Closing, the students have ridden the rollercoaster of the future. They have tasted the excitement, demonstrated their passion, some to the exhilaration of a gold medal, scholarships and prizes, some to come to terms with doing their best.

Planning for next year begins before the last box is packed; always the goal to make things better. Volunteering in SkillsUSA brings so many rewards in ways you will always remember. Sights, sounds, and memories are so vivid, just watching it or listening to someone explain it won’t compare to the experience…. and in the end that is what keeps you coming back.

This is an opportunity one never forgets. As a SkillsUSA alumni, new doors and opportunities open to you. It is your choice whether or not you wish to be a part of SkillsUSA after such an experience, but it's hard to pull away. It is an extraordinary experience, and SkillsUSA is always looking for more members. Talk to your students or teachers if you are not a SkillsUSA member to join in the experience. To current SkillsUSA members, hope to see you at the next competition!