by Mary Tom Bass

Four years ago, Edgecombe Community College joined a national organization called SkillsUSA to help students develop and hone career and technical skills.

George Jerman Jr. received second place in the Men’s Haircutting competition in the SkillsUSA state conference in April 2018.

Students jumped on board, quickly realizing the benefits of getting involved.

Founded in 1965, SkillsUSA offers a state and national contest program for students to demonstrate their technical skills. The organization also offers a professional development program to assist students in developing employability skills such as time management and problem-solving.

The Edgecombe Community College team, called SkillsECC, comprises 41 student members and 10 instructors who serve as advisors. Student members are enrolled in business and industry, cosmetology, and criminal justice programs.

“Skilled labor runs this country,” says Tim Boyd, team advisor and Information Technology Studies instructor.

“Part of our mission at Edgecombe Community College is to increase awareness of the value of career and technical education and to equip our students with the skills they need to be successful in these fields.

“That’s what SkillsUSA is all about. When students graduate, they are ready to get and keep a job and progress in that job.”

SkillsUSA hosts popular state and national competitions in which career and technical education students compete in more than 100 different trade, technical, and leadership events.

Students work against the clock and each other, proving their expertise in occupations like cosmetology, electronics, computer-aided drafting, precision machining, medical assisting, and culinary arts.

Nearly 1,800 high school and post-secondary students compete at the state level, and winners are eligible to compete nationally. More than 6,000 students compete at the national conference.

In June 2016 and 2017, at the national conference in Louisville, KY, ECC’s Career Pathways Showcase – Industrial and Engineering Technology team members captured first place. Three other teams also brought home awards in 2017.

Team members were required to make oral presentations to the judges. “It was awesome,” says Kaitlyn Tripp, one of the members of the 2017 first-place team. “I was so nervous, but I did it. And it turned out to be pretty easy.”

This past April, ECC students won 11 awards, including six first-place honors, at the SkillsUSA state conference.

“These competitions provide measurable results,” Boyd explains. And sometimes a job.

“Sometimes the reward for winning is an instant job. Employers attend these conferences to recruit workers. They are seeking employees with specific skill sets, and they know that students in these competitions have mastered those skill sets.

“For me, participating in SkillsUSA is one of the best things about working at Edgecombe Community College,” Boyd says.

“We’re proving to the world that our students are learning career and technical skills, and that’s what it’s all about.”