It’s fall. All across the nation on college and high school campuses, people turn their attention to football. From now until bowl games or high school playoffs, people will judge schools by their athletic teams. College presidents will tell you this makes sound recruitment sense-good colleges use the prominence of strong athletic programs to generate interest in their own academic programs. At ICC, we’ve been fortunate to have a women’s basketball team that’s won five national championships.
Athletics surely demonstrate some of the qualities needed in today’s business world. Concepts like teamwork, discipline, perseverance, and leadership all can be learned through athletics. But not everyone’s an athlete, nor are these qualities learned exclusively through athletic competition. And for some professionals, other skills may be important too.
For example, each year occupational students compete at local levels in special contests sponsored by Skills USA that lead up to the nationals. Tough competitions, set up by industry experts, challenge more than 4,000 students in 75 technical areas. Students take a written test and then are asked to diagnose and fix problems with technology and equipment we see in our everyday lives.
While the Skills USA National contests don’t generate as much media interest as the Rose Bowl, the winners of these competitions are probably more likely to make a real difference in our daily lives and routines. While a 90-yard kick-off return can get your heart pumping, think of how you feel when it’s 20 degrees below zero and your furnace breaks down. Or on a Saturday afternoon when your computer’s electrical system fails. Or Tuesday evening in the office and your e-mail, fax, and phone are dead because a cable has been cut and you can’t go home until you send out a report to Prague. At times like these, you’ll want the local stars of the Skills USA competition on your side.
For several years, both four-year and community colleges, as well as high schools, have sent their brightest and best to the Skills USA contests. ICC has been proud to have a number of our students place in the top three positions in their disciplines over the years. And in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration competition, ICC students have brought home the gold medal in two of the last four years. Other areas where ICC students have shown their occupational prowess at the national level include technical computer applications, electronics technology, telecommunications cabling, diesel equipment technology, technical drafting, and computer maintenance technology.
You won’t see instant replays of the competitive performance of these students or read about their achievements on the sports page. But if you’re an employer reviewing resumes for occupational and technical positions, you might want to check to see whether candidates have been involved in a Skills USA competition and whether they’ve placed at a state or national level. It’s not exactly the Heisman trophy, but it does tell you the person has met the toughest challenges posed by the people who can best make a judgment-industry representatives of labor and management who know what it takes to get your job done right.
Skills USA winners can offer business and industry the same kind of competitive edge as early round draft choices. Take time to ask occupational workers about their participation in Skills USA, and know that those who’ve won national medals have demonstrated skill and ability at the highest level of their profession. IBI