In its heyday during the “vo-tech” era, the SkillsUSA club from Seward County raked in the prizes and made valuable connections to business and industry partners. That tradition has been resurrected as the SCCC SkillsUSA team wraps up its second year under the leadership of instructors Scott Lickteig, drafting and design, welding instructor Tyler Mangels, and HVAC instructor Manuel Bustillos .
“It’s been a great year,” Lickteig told his assembled club members at an awards ceremony in early May. “Last year, we took third in one category at the state level and we felt pretty good about that. This year, we took 14 members, and came home with seven awards. We’re causing some heads to turn across Kansas.”
The organization, which is internationally recognized for its promotion of skilled trade work and professionalism, gives its student-members a real advantage, said former club sponsor Sybil Wagner.
“It really puts you at the front of the line,” she told students. “I know, I saw it over and over during my years at the vo-tech. My own daughter got job interviews just because her resume listed SkillsUSA, and that is still an advantage you gain from participating.”
Wagner, former drafting instructor Steve Merz, and former auto body instructor Neil Upham attended the awards ceremony.
“I’m thrilled to see this club up and running again,” Merz said. “It’s something that really benefits the students.”
Student Judson Casey, who competed in the CNC Milling and Precision Machining category, experienced the rewards firsthand, when he brought home the gold medal for the state.
Instructors and fellow students admired his prize backpack, which contained more than $700 worth of materials, including a highly-coveted caliber tool.
Upham noted the team of students, which raked in prizes for everything from welding sculpture to team welding fabrication, had exceeded the high mark of former years.
“We’ve never had a gold-medal winner before,” he said. “This is the right time for it, since we need workers in the field. The economy is bringing the jobs back, and now we need people to do them.”
Lickteig said he hopes the club will continue to expand.
“Right now, the competition categories don’t offer anything specific for our natural gas, corrosion, and process technology students,” he said. “Next year, though, we hope to include some of those students in the welding category and other areas they may take as an overlap. And there are soft-skills competitions where students can take part in mock interviews, presentations, and enter their resumes. Those are definitely valuable skills to add to their workforce toolkit.”
Dean of Industrial Technology Travis Combs said he’s impressed by the group’s achievements thus far.
“CTE — Career Technical Education — is where higher ed is seeing major expansion across Kansas and the nation,” he said. “There’s the demand across industries for people with specific skills and a level of professionalism that this club helps develop. We’re incredibly proud of these students who are going to work for the future.”