This spring I had the opportunity to attend the state SkillsUSA competition for the first time. We arrived early on the first day as the groups were setting up for competitions. Hundreds of students checked in and began scattering to their assigned area for the day. The day’s events included construction and welding on site with other events taking place across the Jackson area.
The student groups arrived prepared for each of their competitions, and when they started work, each took the responsibility of their part. The competition for construction technology students began with a loud whistle and the students at once began to work. Each was competent in their job for constructing a small storage shed and over the hours the structure began to take shape.
While the construction students worked diligently, I toured the other event of the day, a career expo for middle schoolers. The event is organized by MCEF to raise awareness of the careers available to Mississippians. It included eye-catching displays that I enjoyed watching a demonstration on a bulldozer to students testing nail guns. The organizations represented included construction, architecture, and metal working companies, along with schools and energy or transpiration organizations. One power company showed the danger of live wires as they touched different materials to a closed off section of wire. Thousands of middle schoolers from across the state attended the event to learn more about each of the occupations represented.
After I spent some time at the expo, I returned to the main competition building and the welding structures were being brought out. The artwork these high school and college students complete is a testament to their dedication and skill of these students. Each sculpture represents something from the students’ lives some chose patriotic themes in honor of armed service members. Others choose themes from their hometowns like logging machinery or farm scenes.
In the day I spent at Skills USA, I saw students who knew their trade and were proud of their accomplishments. The future is bright for these students and Mississippi’s career and technical education classes and student organizations are in large part responsible teaching skills to prepare these young workers.