2017 SkillsUSA State Conference®

April 19, 2017

The 2017 Nebraska Leadership and Skills Conference is in the books. Twenty-two Lexington High School students helped make this conference the largest in the history of SkillsUSA Nebraska. Although this is the third consecutive year that LHS students have participated in the annual event, this is the first year that we haven’t had to make a trip to the metro for our students to put their skills to the test. Formerly held in Omaha, the event has found a new host city in Grand Island, with the large majority of the events taking place at the Heartland Events Center and Fonner Park. Home to the Nebraska State Fair, facilities like the Fonner Park Sheep Barn and the Pinnacle Bank Expo Center seemed to be an ideal setting for competitions such as cabinetmaking, carpentry, diesel equipment technology, masonry, plumbing and welding fabrication. The conference gave high school and college students from all across the state the opportunity to compete in over 80 different leadership and skill competitions that are meant to showcase the talents of Nebraska’s future skilled workforce. Events like the State Leadership and Skills Conference don’t happen without the efforts of many dedicated professionals and industry partners.

Hundreds of individuals from over 80 sponsors contributed resources to make this 3-day conference the culminating state-level event for the 85 chapters that make up SkillsUSA Nebraska. As the welding instructor at Lexington High School, I am particularly cognizant of the efforts that were made by representatives from Lincoln Electric, Matheson, Miller Electric Mfg. Co., Strobel Energy Group and Valmont Industries, Inc. The manpower provided by these business and industry partners plays an essential role in making the welding contests the first-class events that they are. The contest coordinators and officials invest a lot of their time in the planning and preparation of these competitions months before any welding competitor sets foot in the competition area. The mere logistics of getting all of the welding power sources and cutting equipment, the gas cylinders and the thousands of pounds of metal to Fonner Park for the welding fabrication contest is an impressive feat in itself. Then, they have to work tirelessly to ensure that the contests are ran in a manner that earns the confidence of every competitor. Students, with the help of their instructors, have likely invested substantial amounts of time to prepare for this event and they expect a competition that is organized and conducted in a manner that is deemed to be fair for every team. Students want to be assured that the title of best high school or college welding fabrication team in the state of Nebraska was earned fair and square. The representatives from the aforementioned companies did an outstanding job of making this the case.  

Why are these professionals willing to make such an investment of their time, energy and resources to provide this opportunity to high school and college welding students? I think that they know that these events are what make welding so exciting for students, and it’s one of the very best recruitment tools in getting individuals to pursue a career in the industry.

As a welding educator, I can attest to the power that these events have to help motivate students to work towards improving their skills and increasing their knowledge. SkillsUSA competitions are a great asset for all skilled and technical science teachers to convey the importance of the standards that have been established and they serve as an opportunity for the students to show what they can do. I am very excited that we have businesses and industry partners who are willing to help make events such as the SkillsUSA Leadership and Skills Conference a great experience for tomorrow’s skilled workforce.