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Ask Chelle: Staying CONNECTed

SkillsUSA Executive Director Chelle Travis has a long family history and nearly two decades of work experience in career and technical education. Got a question? She can help.
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Chelle Travis

How can I stay engaged in SkillsUSA this year if I’m not able to physically attend classes or chapter meetings? Also, will there be a chance to compete this year on the national level?

Those are two huge questions on the minds of just about every SkillsUSA student these days, and I’m excited to share some definitive answers to both of them.

Let’s start with your first question, as this is one we’ve been preparing for at SkillsUSA since the pandemic hit last spring. It’s undeniable: The current learning environments students are facing present a huge challenge to maintaining a vibrant SkillsUSA chapter. But just because something is challenging doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Some shrink away from a challenge. Others — SkillsUSA members in particular — use it as an opportunity to prove what they’re made of, to strengthen their current skills and gain new ones in the process, and to inspire others to do the same.

Our theme this year is “SkillsUSA: Champions at Work, Empowered to Succeed.” That theme was decided on before COVID-19, but it’s since proven to be a fitting choice. In fact, “empowered” is a word I want you to keep at the forefront of your mind this school year, because it’s always important to remind ourselves that we are far more powerful and resilient than we sometimes give ourselves credit for. The ongoing health crisis … the weeks and months spent at home … the disruption that’s been caused to our lives on so many levels … all of these things could make anyone feel powerless. But make no mistake, you do have the power within yourselves to face and overcome anything. What I said at the beginning of this pandemic is just as true now as it was then: Together, we will get through this, and we will come out on the other side stronger than we were before. Each day we conquer brings us one day closer to that moment.

To help you get there, we’ve worked all summer long preparing a plan of action for this school year that we’re calling “Empowering Experiences.” It’s a plan that’s designed to keep you and your fellow SkillsUSA members connected and motivated all year long.

It all starts with SkillsUSA CONNECT, our new virtual community for SkillsUSA membership. CONNECT is a one-stop location for programs, training, live and interactive events, resources and more. One of its coolest features is that it’s audience-specific when it comes to content. In other words, students will see programs and activities geared specifically toward their interests, while advisors and even partners will find content related to their own. As a student, CONNECT will help you develop deeper relationships, not just with local members, but with members all over the country. It will provide richer, more meaningful experiences for everyone involved with SkillsUSA, no matter where you are on your education or career path.

CONNECT is where you’ll find those “Empowering Experiences” I mentioned earlier, and there’s a huge a variety to choose from. There’s “SkillsUSA Real Talk,” a video series where one of our national officers fills you in on the most important SkillsUSA news of the day. There’s the “SkillsUSA Game Show” (yes, a real game show), our “Alumni Ask Me Anything” live series, the “Charge” chapter officer video series, and much more. There are also more chances than ever to earn recognition for your outstanding work, including the “SkillsUSA Spotlight Member of the Month.”

We truly believe CONNECT will take SkillsUSA membership to a new level in the years ahead. For now, you’ll need to be invited to sign up for CONNECT through your advisor, so make sure you let him or her know you’re interested if you haven’t already. In the meantime, take a look around at connect.skillsusa.org

As to your question about whether or not you’ll have the opportunity to compete in SkillsUSA this year, the answer is a simple and resolute “Yes!” SkillsUSA is 100-percent committed to holding our National Leadership and Skills Conference in 2021 along with all of our SkillsUSA Championships competitions. What format those events will take is a separate question that will be answered soon, but whether they’re in-person, virtual or a hybrid of the two, they will be conducted and you will have the opportunity to achieve bronze, silver and gold medals in the trade areas you’re passionate about. We are already preparing our SkillsUSA Championships Technical Standards to feature virtual options for every contest should those be required. So, rest assured: Whatever scenario we find ourselves in, we will create a conference and competitive experience that you can all be proud of and that our industry partners will value.

I know we’re all weary of this “COVID lifestyle” and the huge changes it’s brought to our everyday personal and professional lives. But now is the time to demonstrate — not just to ourselves, but to our schools, our communities and our nation — just how important SkillsUSA membership and the personal, workplace and technical skills we champion continue to be. Now’s the time to make it clear that the Essential Elements that make up the SkillsUSA Framework aren’t just words, but ideals and values we live by. This is going to be a challenging year, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a great one when it’s all said and done. Together, as one empowered organization, that’s exactly what we’ll make it.

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