(May 17, 2019) Worcester Technical High School students affiliated with SkillsUSA have much to celebrate, as members took home awards from a state-level competition and earned a national level Chapter of Excellence last month.
“It was just a wonderful feeling for everyone involved,” Principal Tom Zimmer said in April.
The SkillsUSA mission is to work with “students, teachers and industry … to ensure America has a skilled workforce.”
Rick Stephens, a welding teacher and the lead SkillsUSA advisor for Worcester Technical High School, said the school’s team has won the state level for the past three years. This is the third year Worcester County has been awarded a gold standard for the national level for the Chapter of Excellence.
Worcester and Dorchester counties were the only counties from this region to earn the national level award.
Zimmer praised Stephens’ efforts, saying, “He’s not only well known in the state of Maryland, he’s well known nationally through the Skills program, and any time you have a leader of that caliber, who has done it for decades, it is a real bonus to our school and to the students.”
For his part, Stephens said the honors were the result of a team effort.
“It’s very exciting, obviously, and the one big thing is that it’s the whole school,” Stephens said in April. “It takes everybody here to be involved with it all the instructors are [advisors] for their kids.”
Stephens has been teaching for 35 years and also serves on the SkillsUSA Maryland State board of Directors. He said the school has been affiliated with the program for 38 years.
Stephens said the contest took place from April 12-14 in Baltimore. He added Worcester Technical High School brought 100 students to compete in 38 different events that ranged from extemporaneous speaking to welding.
Stephens said 1,200 students competed in Maryland, and 60 Worcester Technical High School students that placed in the top three in their categories in the state.
Zimmer said these types of competitions help students in vocational training gain practical experience because “there are jobs to be had where students don’t necessarily have to go to college and can avoid massive amounts of college student loan debt and come out on their feet with a good job pretty quickly in their young life and be very successful.”
As Stephens noted, success in SkillsUSA is something that can go on a resume.
“It really gives them a leg up. The kids that are going to go right out of school and into the trade, obviously if they’ve competed in SkillsUSA, that’s going to be a great talking point for them when they go to get hired.”
Next month, 30 students from the school will head to Kentucky to compete at the national level from June 23-29.
Stephens said the team is working on fundraising to cover the estimated $58,000 cost of the trip.
Anyone interested in donating can call Stephens or SkillsUSA advisor Crystal Bunting at 410-632-5050.