By Tim Leeds
The 29th Annual SkillsUSA-VICA State Leadership and Skills Conference culminated in an awards assembly at 10 a.m. today at the Montana State University-Northern Gymnasium.
The conference gathered 331 secondary school VICA members from 24 schools and 23 MSU-Northern members to compete in events ranging from arc welding and cabinet making to job interviews and extemporaneous speaking.
The conference began at 2 p.m. Sunday with state officer preparation, and the on-site registration was held from 8-11:30 a.m. Monday. The actual competitions began at 1 p.m. Monday, and ended with the finals for extemporaneous speaking and job skill demonstrations, beginning at 7:30 a.m.
The winners of some competitions are eligible to compete at the national conference, to be held in Kansas City, Mo., from June 25 through July 1.
David Strong, state SkillsUSA/VICA director, said the competitions are divided into 19 skills contests, four leadership competitions and seven team competitions. He said the competitions are modeled on the national competitions, to prepare the winners for competing on the national level.
The competitions vary greatly in form. One might be a competition to judge public speaking, another might have the competitors work through ten stations checking different aspects of technical skill.
"The national association sets up events with business and industry representatives," said Bob Miller, professor of diesel technology at the university. "We set the contests at the state level to try to mirror nationals. It's really industry standards for what they're being tested on."
There is strong industry involvement and backing at the conference. At the diesel competition, the backing included equipment loaned for use at the conference and representatives from Tractor and Equipment company in Billings and Great Falls being there, General Electric representatives ran one of the competition stations, and Interstate Diesel was there. Wane Boysun said at the automotive competition local dealers such as Tilleman Chevrolet, Havre Ford, G & B Toyota and North Star Dodge are always involved, and Snap-On Tools is also a supporter for the state conference.
"The local industries help us out a ton," Boysun said. "Their support to us up here is really invaluable."
The theme for this year's conference is "Building Skills for America." The conference focuses on assisting members of SkillsUSA/VICA in the development of respect for high quality work. Members are taught to set high standards that will take extra effort to reach.
The conference is intended as a forum for members to put their best abilities on display in competitive events, motivational and recognition sessions, business meetings and recreational activities.