KANSAS CITY - Rend Lake College student Josh Curry came close this past weekend. However, former architecture technology CAD division runner-up Ryan Reu (Mt. Vernon) still holds the record for RLC’s showing at the SkillsUSA national championships.
Curry, 20, of Benton finished fourth in the Criminal Justice division of SkillsUSA – a national competition that starts locally, moves up to the state level, and finishes with a nationwide competition among more than 5,000 participants in fields like criminal justice, advertising, architecture, 3D animation and visualization, welding, automotive service, diesel equipment technology and more.
Curry can boast about being the best RLC student ever to compete in the Criminal Justice competition since it was the first time RLC had a student compete in that particular division.
“This is the first time we competed in criminal justice and I believe we did well, especially since we didn’t know what the competition was going to be like in that division,” said RLC Architectural Technology Professor Kevin Weston.
This year marked the 44th anniversary of the National Leadership and Skills Conference. This year’s culmination of more than 10,000 contests was held June 23-28, in Kansas City, Mo.
RLC’s Sarah Lee (Mt.Vernon) finished 12th in Advertising Design and Michael Mosler (Mt.Vernon) grabbed 8th in Architectural Drafting.
“I think we finished very well considering Michael is a first-year student who will be back at RLC next year,” Weston explained. “He will definitely do better next year at nationals.
“I think Sarah did very well,” Weston added. “The competition is very high, particularly in advertising design.”
To even get to Kansas City, the students had to be a first-place finisher at the state level. This was the first year students enrolled at four-year institutions were allowed to compete.
“The competition is going to get a lot tougher in the coming years,” Weston said. “It will be harder for us to do as well, considering four-year colleges are allowed to compete now.”
Curry was given a written exam and tested in areas of criminal justice such as domestic violence, latent prints, communications, report writing, suspicious vehicle, and resume writing. He was also evaluated with a pre-employment interview.
SkillsUSA is just as much a showcase of career and technical education students as it is a competition among them. The multi-million-dollar national event fills space equivalent to 12 football fields and is sponsored by industry heavy hitters like Best Buy, Toyota, State Farm Insurance, Stanley, Snap-on, Milwaukee, Lowe’s, Lincoln Electric, John Deere, General Motors Corporation, and Caterpillar.
“There were hundreds of employers there,” Weston said. “During the contest, Lowe’s donated a million dollars to SkillsUSA. Every student in the architecture division got a $50 gift card to Lowe’s. Milwaukee tools gave $500,000.”
Weston, 51, of West Frankfort coordinates the architectural part of the Illinois SkillsUSA each year. As a component director, he is responsible for bringing in judges, developing the problems contestants will try to solve and presenting a briefing ceremony the night before to tell students what is about to happen and answer any questions.
He started SkillsUSA on the RLC campus in March of 2001 and has headed it ever since. He also serves as the Regional Director of the Illinois Drafting Educators Association – a position he filled more than 16 years ago. In that role, he is responsible for competitions at 20 sites – everything from arranging for lunch and selecting judges to preparing testing packets and reporting the results to state officials. The Regional IDEA competition at RLC awards scholarships to the top finishers in architecture CAD and architecture board. This year, two students from Mt. Vernon Township High School advanced and finished first and third at the statewide competition.
The SkillsUSA philosophy is to reward students for excellence, involve industry in directly evaluating student performance and keep training relevant to employers’ needs, according to the SkillsUSA website.
SkillsUSA is a nationwide network of industry and education dedicated to helping students in career and technical education programs become “Champions at Work,” the website states. Independent market research shows SkillsUSA is known and respected for networking, leadership and the SkillsUSA Championships.