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WorldSkills: Come On, America, Let’s Kick It!

Meghan West
By Meghan West President, CNC Software Inc.

From August 22–27 in Kazan, Russia, something spectacular will happen relevant to all the talk and angst about the skills gap in manufacturing—the WorldSkills competition. More than 1,600 young people from over 75 countries will compete in over 50 trade skills—15 of which are in the Manufacturing & Engineering Technology group.

The first WorldSkills competition was held in 1950 in Madrid. In 1973, President Nixon recognized SkillsUSA (then known as VICA) as the official U.S. representative to WorldSkills. The U.S. and SkillsUSA have come a long way since first entering the competition in 1975. Hundreds of thousands of spectators, public policymakers, employers, teachers, trainers, technical experts and government officials from around the world will attend this biennial competition and watch the “Olympians of the Trades” make the world proud.

This year, 22 young people (the most ever) will represent WorldSkills USA. Of those, just five are competing in four of the 15 manufacturing contests. While I’m very proud of these talented technical rock stars and will personally cheer them on until I’m hoarse, I also strongly believe that America can and should have greater representation in the manufacturing contests.

Please join me in establishing a goal that in 2021, when the contest is held in Shanghai, that we have at least one contestant in all 15 manufacturing matches. Deal? Here are the matches: CNC milling; CNC turning; construction metal work; electronics; industrial control; industrial mechanic millwright; manufacturing team challenge; mechanical engineering CAD; mechatronics; mobile robotics; plastic die engineering; polymechanics & automation; prototype modeling; water technology; and welding.

In the U.S., SkillsUSA feeds the WorldSkills Competition, and that contest features the winners of local and state events. The state and U.S. contests are growing in awareness and funding. Let’s keep that momentum building and also support the kids who win the SkillsUSA contests so they can ply their trades on the global stage.

Participating takes time, talent, and treasure. Usually, each participant needs to travel with at least two others—a mentor to help with the technical aspects of the tasks before and during the competition and a chaperone. It requires about $30,000 to cover expenses for each individual person in the group to attend. Again, with all the lamenting about a lack of skills in the U.S., let’s support the ones who are championing those skills, who are true masters of their crafts, and are at the starting gate of their careers. Bolster their courageous choice. They may have had pushback from those who don’t understand the impact of the trades on our economy and the fulfillment of being a maker.

Further, where is our competitive nature? Look at the adulation of sports Olympians. We like to compare the U.S. with other countries in the medal count, don’t we? Am I the only one who is embarrassed at the poor showing in this remarkable program by a world superpower? You can donate at weblink.donorperfect.com/WorldSkills.

In addition to donations, SkillsUSA needs volunteers. And sponsorships can associate your brand with the cause. For example, 3M is the lead sponsor this year, and Mastercam is a global partner. For over 22 years we’ve served as the exclusive CAM partner in the event. With our reseller partners, we’ve worked with teams around the world since WorldSkills 2017 to master the software and prepare for the tasks. Learn about WorldSkills USA at www.worldskillsusa.org.

Mark your calendars and follow and cheer our team @WorldSkillsUSA on Facebook and Twitter, worldskillsusa on Instagram, and WorldSkills USA on YouTube. Come on, American manufacturing, step up, and let’s kick some … brass!

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