Off The Wall: So How Was Skills USA This year?

So how was SkillsUSA this year?

Jim Ports

Hi Jim

This year’s event was like a Martini glass, filled to the rim with a delicious chocolate mousse. I doubt that’s an approved, Skills USA metaphor, but you get the idea. It was a cup, running over with something good.

Like last year, this year’s competition featured a few thousand kids who look like they fell off a box of Wheaties. Lots of excitement, lots of enthusiasm, lots of earnestness. While I was there, I attended a lunch that mikeroweWORKS catered for the kids we sponsored, (hence the chocolate mousse,) spoke at an event that Koch organized, and said a few words at the opening ceremonies. In between, I wandered around incognito, watching the aforementioned kids compete for honor and glory in the skilled trades. Hard to do that and not feel better about the future of the country.

More than anything, the whole event serves as a reminder that today’s youth don’t fit squarely into one category. I know that’s an obvious thing to say, but it’s far too easy to lump “kids these days” into one great big “entitlement box,” and dismiss the whole generation as unrealistic and lazy. Well, nothing disproves that kind of gross generalization more effectively than Skills USA. And nothing is more gratifying than seeing someone hired right off the competition floor by a company eager to employ the next generation of skilled workers. It happens every year, and this year was no exception.

For a lot kids who qualify to compete nationally, the cost of travel is problem. We try to help in that regard, and this year, I’m happy to say that mikeroweWORKS was able to send over 100 kids to compete in Louisville, thanks in part to a $50,000 matching contribution from The Charles Koch Foundation. Many thanks to Charles for his generosity and help. I’m also proud to say that many of the kids we sponsored excelled in the competition, taking home trophies and medals in various shades.

Of course, Skills USA is a competition, and not everyone gets a trophy. However, everyone that we sponsored did receive a chocolate mousse. Which was delicious, metaphorically, if I don’t say so myself…


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