According to Jeremy Lakeman, criminal justice teacher at Lebanon High School, Skills USA is a competition for the “trade and industry” classes offered at high schools across the country.
“So, we’ve got criminal justice, carpentry, auto, cosmetology, drafting and culinary. Any of the technical skills you could get a job in, that’s what we do,” said Lakeman. “All those five groups are rolled into one, and they do competitions just like those in [Future Farmers of America] do.”
Lakeman had six criminal justice students compete in the state competition. Nikita Alarcon, Roben Parker and Emily Boyd finished in fourth place in crime scene investigation, Caroline Wright competed in job interviewing, Zach Green competed in the first aid-CPR competition and Adoria Randolph finished sixth in the state in the criminal justice competition.
“There were 14 crime scene teams that we had to compete against,” said Boyd. “We qualified at regionals and got to go to state, and whoever gets first at state gets to go to nationals.”
“I learned from my competition like what an application looks like,” said Wright. “And, like what people are expecting in a job interview and just how the process works.”
Corbin Hagman finished third in the cooking competition in the culinary arts field.
“I had to make a salad with an emulsified dressing, had to make a soup with a homemade stock, vegetables and chicken and then an entrée, which was airline chicken breast, mushroom pan sauce, rice pilaf, sautéed green beans and glazed carrots,” said Hagman.
Haley Grimes also competed in the commercial baking competition.
He said he feels the things he’s learned in the culinary arts program and the competition will prepare him for working in the kitchen at a restaurant.
“It definitely helped like timing-wise, you get used to that timing, because in a restaurant, I mean, all the stuff has to be fired up right at the right time,” said Hagman. “[At the competition], you got docked points after the time passed.”
Angel Gallegos, Ethan Vars and Bryan Maza were three of the students that went to observe in the automotive portion of the competition as Kevin Croswell competed. Lebanon High School Automotive teacher said he wanted to prepare the three to compete next year.
“For the regional contest, there were basically two things you had to do,” said Gallegos. “You had to do a written test, which was multiple questions, and then there was a hands-on test. In the hands-on test, you would go out with whatever group you were competing in, one, two three or four. One is tool identification, two is electrical, three is steering and suspension and four is [heating and air conditioning] and all that type of stuff. I was in three, so I had to measure a rotor.”
Five Lebanon students finished third in the carpentry competition. Jude Hassell placed in the cabinet-making competition, and Dalton Jones, Bailey Kimble, Tom Draper and Carter Higgins placed in the teamwork competition.
Hassle built an end table for the cabinet-making competition after he was given plans and the necessary equipment.
The teamwork competition involved working together to build a small room. Kimble worked on carpentry, Jones did the plumbing, Higgins worked as the electrician, and Draper focused on masonry.
The Lebanon High School carpentry team has made the national competition several years in the teamwork competition, but fell just short this year as only the first-place team qualified.
“In some of the contests, you have to get first, second or third to go to nationals, but in Skills USA, it’s only first place,” said Lakeman. “So, first place goes to nationals, but they medal first, second and third.”
Avery Beal and Mason Phillips competed in the robotics competitions. While they didn’t place, they built fully operational robots for two different competitions. In the mobile robotics competition, a team built a robot for a game where they stacked orange cones on top of each other.
“It’s mobile robotics, and each year we have to build a robot for a different game,” said Beal.
This year, the team ran into a problem when the game was changed at the last minute, so they had to re-work their robot. Beal said the team probably spent about 20 hours working on their robot, which they named Phillburte.
Phillips competed in the urban search-and-rescue competition, where he had to steer a robot from behind a curtain using a camera to pick up materials. The competition simulated what a search-and-rescue robot would do in the event of a bomb.
“The skills competition had so much interference with, like power tools and other cameras and everything that not even Bluetooth would work,” said Phillips. “We actually got disqualified because our camera would not send signals to the TV, because there was so much interference. I just ended up taking my phone, Facetiming it and electrical taping it [to the front].”
Along with Beal and Phillips, Stephen Potter and Nathaniel Johnson also competed in the robotics challenge.
The last category for Skills USA was the cosmetology competition. Lebanon High School didn’t send anyone in that department this year, but McKenzie McNeal, the cosmetology teacher, said they plan to go next year.
“This is my first year, so I wasn’t really involved in Skills USA yet, but that is something we will do next year for sure,” said McNeal. “I have some students that want to be involved in it next year.”
The cosmetology students learn all about hair, makeup, nail and skin care, and by the fourth year run an operational salon out of the classroom.
“Teachers, students, anybody in the community who wanted to could come in there, and they cut hair for free,” said Lakeman. “It functions a lot like a real business. Auto mechanics is the same thing. I’m dropping my car off tomorrow, and they’re going to fix the brakes. Culinary runs a full café. If you haven’t eaten down there on a Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, you need to pop in down there and eat.”
Lakeman said the point of the Skills USA program is to give the students a club to be a part of, while also preparing them for a career.
“They have a lot of people who can get hired straight from the floor,” he said. “We look at the Skills Club here at the school as sort of a three-sided program. We provide the obvious social part of the club. The kids get together, they get to do ice cream socials and they get to do different events as a club, as a group, so you get the social organization part. Then, they do the competition part. They get to go to these contests. They get to represent their school and do the different skills, but then there’s also the preparation for real world side, where they’re learning skills that they can turn around and take to whatever. If any of these students decides, ‘hey criminal justice is not what I’m into,’ they can take the skills that they’ve learned, the public speaking, the working as a team, and they can use that in whatever job they go to.”