Mad Skills

Jessica Jackson, Dawn Braa and Alicia Moss at SkillsUSA Minnesota Leadership & Skills Conference

More and more students are exploring the benefits of SkillsUSA

When students and educators from Dakota County Technical College first got involved in SkillsUSA Minnesota, the organization was named the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America, or VICA. The named changed in 2004 and today SkillsUSA Minnesota is part of a national organization that each year serves more than 250,000 student members with some 14,700 chapters and 54 state and territorial associations, including Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands. SkillsUSA Minnesota has provided leadership pathways to more than 200,000 student members since 1967. Current annual membership tops 3,000 with chapters in 29 technical colleges and 50 high schools, or cooperative centers.

“SkillsUSA Minnesota has always had a strong presence in the trades,” said Mike Opp, DCTC dean of transportation and technical careers. Opp also serves as advisor to the DCTC SkillsUSA chapter. “The organization has evolved to include leadership development, community service and service learning. DCTC students from less traditional programs are now participating, including students from Photography, Graphic Design Technology and Early Childhood and Youth Development. We have plans to extend participation to even more programs.”

“Participating in SkillsUSA at the state and national levels was a fantastic learning experience.” — Kristin Vanevenhoven

In 2011, three students from the college performed exceptionally well at the national level. Kristin Vanevenhoven, Jessica Jackson and John Krause, were top-10 finishers at the SkillsUSA Championships June 22 and 23 during the 47th Annual National Leadership and Skills Conference in  Kansas City, Mo. The DCTC students were part of the Minnesota SkillsUSA delegation that joined more than 15,000 students, teachers and representatives from some 1,100 corporations, trade associations, businesses and labor unions from across the nation.

The SkillsUSA Championships featured 94 hands-on skill and leadership competitions with more than 5,700 participants. The National Leadership and Skills Conference was held at a number of locations in  Kansas City, including the  Municipal Auditorium, Kemper Arena, H. Roe Bartle Hall, Marriott Downtown and Hyatt Regency Crown Center.

“I didn’t know what to expect. I brainstormed with Dawn Braa, my instructor, who was with me in Kansas City. She’s a great mentor and I found that I really can compete under pressure. It was awesome!” — Jessica Jackson

“SkillsUSA sponsors the SkillsUSA Championships annually to recognize the achievements of career and technical education students and to encourage them to strive for excellence and pride in their chosen occupations,” said Jennifer Polz, executive director of  SkillsUSA Minnesota. “SkillsUSA organizes this event, and it is considered the single greatest day of industry volunteerism in America every year at an estimated cost of more than $35 million. Each SkillsUSA Championships contestant is a state-level gold medalist.”

“The nationals were nerve-racking,” said Jessica Jackson, an Early Childhood and Youth Development major. Jackson’s first-place showing at the 44th Anniversary SkillsUSA Minnesota Leadership & Skills Championships Conference at the Sheraton Bloomington Hotel in Bloomington, Minn., March 25–27, 2011., represents the first time a student from her program took part in a SkillsUSA event. She placed fourth in nationals.

SkillsUSA’s Mission Statement: SkillsUSA empowers its members to become world-class workers, leaders and responsible American citizens.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Jackson added. “I brainstormed with Dawn Braa, my instructor, who was with me in Kansas City. She’s a great mentor and I found that I really can compete under pressure. It was awesome!”

Kristin Vanevenhoven, a Graphic Design Technology major, was also a first-time representative from her program at the state competition. She took sixth at nationals. “Everything was incredibly well-organized in our area at the national competition in Kansas City,” said Vanevenhoven, who took part in the Advertising Design competition. “Participating in SkillsUSA at the state and national levels was a fantastic learning experience.”

There’s never been a better time to be skilled. That’s what SkillsUSA is delivering!

Jennifer Polz is happy to report many business partners have discovered something special through their investment in SkillsUSA. She encourages each SkillsUSA chapter to develop relationships with successful people in business and industry, noting that it is one of the best investments of time they’ll ever make.

“Dakota County Technical College does a great job reaching out to it’s business community and partners and also its community leaders to help as mentors on campus throughout the year to provide more support to instructors and their students,” Polz said. “In spite of a tough economy and budget cuts, SkillsUSA is experiencing a steady growth period here in Minnesota—and a dynamic growth nationally.”

Three DCTC students with mad skills who placed in the top 10 at the 2011 SkillsUSA Championships in Kansas City…
Jessica Jackson | Fourth Place | Preschool Teaching Assistant

Jessica Jackson | Early Childhood and Youth Development Major

Jessica Jackson, 27, served during the Iraq War as a U.S. Army sergeant and supply specialist with the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Ky. A native of  Florence, S.C., Jackson plans to graduate from the Early Childhood and Youth Development program in Spring 2012. For more information about Jackson’s performance at the state-level Preschool Teaching Assistant competition, read “SkillsUSA State Championship Update” on the Early Childhood and Youth Development blog.

John Krause | Fourth Place | Masonry

John Krause | Concrete and Masonry Major

A student in the Concrete and Masonry program with plans to graduate spring 2011, John Krause, 19, graduated from Zumbrota-Mazeppa High School in 2010. After graduating from DCTC, Krause has plans to join the family business, Krause Masonry, Inc.

Kristin Vanevenhoven | Sixth Place | Advertising Design

Kristin Vanevenhoven | Graphic Design Technology Major

A student ambassador and senator at DCTC, Kristin Vanevenhoven, 24, has a Bachelor of Science in Family and Consumer Science Education from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. She is on track to graduate from DCTC with an A.A.S. degree in Graphic Design Technology in spring 2012. A native of De Pere, Wis., Vanevenhoven looks forward to a career as a graphic design teacher.

To learn more about SkillsUSA Minnesota and the SkillsUSA chapter at DCTC, contact:
  • Mike Opp
    Dean of Transportation Careers and Technical Careers

Or visit SkillsUSA Minnesota!

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