The SkillsUSA Championships career competitions are a great way for students to test their skills against national industry standards. Whether they take place on the local, state or national level, SkillsUSA career competitions teach the value of persistence in reaching a goal and offer great ways to gain recognition, scholarships and, in some cases, job offers.
At the national level, competition rules may be updated on a yearly basis, and the SkillsUSA Championships Technical Standards provides the official rules for each competition, including what clothes to wear and what tools to bring. This document is updated each fall and released at no charge to instructors who are SkillsUSA professional members. If you are competing this year, ask your advisor to provide the official rules for your event and any contest updates. If you have questions before your trip to the National Leadership & Skills Conference in Atlanta, contact the SkillsUSA Customer Care team at 844-875-4557.
Below is expert advice on achieving maximum competition results. It’d organized by career cluster, and it comes from the SkillsUSA industry partners and educators who plan and manage the national competitions. Overall, the best career competition advice is simple: Read the rules, practice your skills, study for the written tests and watch your timing for each task. Upload a one-page resume and take the SkillsUSA Professional Knowledge test online (www.skillsusachampionships.online/) before you arrive to Atlanta. (This counts as part of your score and may be used as a tiebreaker.) Then, try to relax and enjoy the competition experience!
Career Cluster: A/V Technology and Communications
This career cluster is focused on designing, producing, exhibiting, performing, writing and publishing multimedia content, including visual and performing arts and design, journalism and entertainment services.
Review the SkillsUSA Championships Technical Standards for your event, especially any contest updates and addendums that are posted on the SkillsUSA website.
Paul Chiacchierini, AMP Production Studios
Digital Cinema Production
Be sure to check for updates to your contest online, as contest chairs may be making changes. Do some research about the facilities we’ll be using and the Atlanta area before you leave.
Adam Frank, Frederick Career and Technology Center (Md.)
Graphic Imaging: Sublimation
Show up prepared by looking through all the details about the contest in the Technical Standards. Have fun and get in the flow, as we always do our best when we are confident in our abilities and are enjoying what we are doing. Be proud of making it to the national competition and then let the experience take you to where you want to go.
Aaron Montgomery, Our Success Group
Photography is a beautiful combination of both the arts and sciences. In technical education, I often see imagery that focuses more on the technical side. Spend more time thinking about artistic imagery with impact, then capture it with strong technical skills.
Bill Chenaille, Academy for Media Production, Pa.
Be well groomed. Wear a sharp-looking uniform. Speak clearly. Observe the time limits. Smile, smile and then smile some more! Although we are looking for a well-designed T-shirt, the presentation you make about your shirt is also very important. A good design with a great presentation will win over just a good design. Remember to enjoy your moment; don’t miss the experience.
Sherrie Rowe, Augusta Technical College (Ga.)
Career Cluster: Architecture and Construction
This career cluster is focused on designing, planning, managing, building and maintaining the built environment.
Read and follow the SkillsUSA Technical Standards for your contest! Don’t bring items that are not on the tool list. Come to your contest orientation prepared to listen, and take detailed notes. Ask questions if you don’t understand. On competition day, avoid distractions. Be sure arrive on time, be focused and be ready to compete.
Kent Gilchrist, Fremont Interiors Inc.
Heating Ventilation Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration
Be on time! We do not allow cellphones on competition day. Stay calm. Remember what your instructor taught you. Don’t panic — you will have plenty of time to complete the task.
Bill Roberts, Lennox International
Harold Nelson, Mingledorff’s Inc.
The speed of installation is not the most important aspect of the competition. Accuracy and neatness are far more important than speed. Read all written instructions first and ask questions if something is not completely understood. Rely on what you have been taught. Don’t look at other contestants’ work and assume theirs is correct and yours isn’t. DO NOT STRESS, and try to enjoy the experience. And last but not least, know that the most important tool you will use is the one you carry between your ears (your brain)!
Dale L. Powell, PHCC Educational Foundation
Copper Development Association (retired)
Follow all safety protocols. If you follow the SkillsUSA safety protocols, your time in Atlanta will be enjoyable and one you will not soon forget. You have special skills, so use them and enjoy the experience.
Jim Bohn, Broan-Nutone
First, get very familiar with your contest update. Second, plan and practice for the competition.
Dan Quiter, welding trainer
Career Cluster: Health Science
This career cluster is focused on planning, managing, and providing therapeutic services, diagnostic services, health informatics, support services and biotechnology research and development.
Follow the Technical Standards. Pay close attention to instructions from the contest technical committee chair. Remember that even though the scenarios are not real, you should perform any skill as if it were a real situation. Be prepared. Ask questions before beginning the skill. Properly fix anything that was missed during the skill demonstration prior to ending the skill. Relax. Remember, you are a state gold medal winner, and you are here competing as a national contestant! Good Luck!
Jill Henning, Health Careers Cluster Chair, New Mexico Junior College
Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
Everyone should practice due diligence, social distancing and washing hands or using hand sanitizer regularly. During the competition, when students are sitting in the waiting area to be called for a station, do not talk with anyone outside of the contest area. It might look like you are receiving information about your contest.
Charlotte Bush, AmeriMed Ambulance Company
Know the First Aid and CPR Emergency Care Standards used by the American Heart Association, American Red Cross and other national training programs. Relax and enjoy yourself. You have worked hard to get to this competition.
Becky Tyler, ETC Solutions
Health Knowledge Bowl
Do review the Technical Standards for the competition. Study for the test, practice the flow of competition and dress appropriately for both the orientation and contest. Practice whispering to your team. Don’t arrive late or unprepared.
Elizabeth Dannen, Pierce County Skills Center (Wash.)
Health Occupations Professional Portfolio
Practice your timing. Don’t lose points by going over the allotted time. Dress in SkillsUSA competition clothing according to the written guidelines. Your portfolio must be in an official SkillsUSA 1-inch, 3-ring loose-leaf binder. Make sure the pages are numbered within your portfolio.
Terry Doss, Tennessee College of Applied Technology Nashville
Competitors at any competition should remember they are the boss of the situation when they are in that space. Do not look at the scenario as a test but instead as a moment in time that you can control. If the scenario is to take vital signs, then treat the scenario and the patient as your family member and do your best. Remember that in the medical field, educating the patient is key. Never walk in and just start the procedure. Instead, establish a rapport by introducing yourself to the patient, explain what you will be doing and why. This allows the patient to feel confident in your knowledge and skill. Be sure to follow all directives, as this creates a better chance you will get everything done that is asked of you. One last thing: breathe!
Diana Kendrick, Eagles Landing Health/Atria Medical Institute, Ga.
Career Cluster: Hospitality and Tourism
This career cluster is focused on the management, marketing and operations of restaurants and other food services; lodging; attractions; recreation events and travel-related services.
Practice is key, but always practice with a goal in mind for each work session. Focus on one key element of the competition and perfect that piece. Then as you continue practicing, put all the pieces together. Make sure to read and understand the contest rules. Create a timeline for the day and follow it while practicing. Relax and have fun!
Greg Beachey, Youthentity
First and foremost, remember to have some fun! Restaurant service is about demonstrating high-level technique and customer interaction. The students that tend to score the highest are the ones who are prepared to demonstrate both.
Sheila Hyde-Clower, Dallas (Texas) College
Career Cluster: Human Services
This career cluster is focused on preparing for employment that relates to families and human needs such as counseling and mental health services, family and community services, personal care and consumer services.
Read the Technical Standards and know the contest rules and items needed for the contest. Then just breathe, relax and have fun.
Lorrie Simon, The Burmax Company
Community Action Project, Community Service Project and Employment Application Process
Practice! Make sure you have a backup way to present your project if your technology does not work on contest day. Leave your cellphone and smartwatch with your advisor. For community service, make sure you have masks, hand sanitizer and water for all contestants.
Rahsaan Gomes-McCreary , The Providence (R.I.) Public Schools
Early Childhood Education
Do review the Technical Standards for both materials and attire. Prepare closely with your advisor. Read all communication from SkillsUSA. Don’t assume anything.
Gloria Benitez, ECE Instructor (retired)
Career Cluster: Information Technology
This career cluster is focused on IT occupations for entry level, technical and professional employment related to the design, development, support and management of hardware, software, multimedia and systems integration services.
Pay attention to details in the Technical Standards for clothing and presentations. Follow the contest schedule and be where you are supposed to be on time. Get excited about bringing your professional “A” game to the competition.
Charles Brooks, Educational Technologies Group Inc.
Career Cluster: Law, Public Safety, Corrections and Security
This career cluster is focused on planning, managing, and providing legal, public safety, protective services and homeland security, including professional and technical support services.
Crime Scene Investigation and Criminal Justice
Please review the standards for your contest and bring all the equipment you will need. Be mindful of cellphone-use restrictions and the need for all participants to respect each other and the process.
John R. Edmundson, Retired Member, Arizona Chiefs of Police Association
Be sure to know how to use all the required equipment. Do a ride-along in a patrol car to help you see how police interact with the public. Most competitors forget to prepare for the written test, and it is the largest score. Look on Quizlet and search topics like “criminal justice” and “patrol operations.” The judges might ask you questions like, “Why did you do that?” Don’t panic thinking you did something wrong. They are evaluating your knowledge of procedure. Practice scenarios where you stop and explain why you are doing certain things. Do not forget that things like lifting prints and medical emergencies are possibly evaluated. Not everything will be an arrest or search. The goal in the competition is to have students demonstrate tasks that are routine tasks for patrol officers. Officers today focus on effective communication and resolving problems. Practice scenarios where you interact with people. Know proper de-escalation and conflict-resolution techniques.
Thomas Washburn, Law and Public Safety Education Network
Make sure you follow the Technical Standards for the contest. Read all the information provided. For the interview, know the information in your notebook and be able to speak clearly and concisely. Ask for the question to be repeated if you do not understand an interview question. Remember, you may not use any props for the interview. Use proper interviewing techniques. Show up before your interview time.
Mary Anderson, Deming (N.M.) Public Schools
Be prepared! Be sure to go over all information related to your contest and practice your skills in a proper, precise manner as often as possible. Once at the conference, get acquainted with the facilities beforehand ååand be punctual, allowing enough time to arrive at all sites at least five minutes before required schedule. Express your appreciation to all those who are assisting in your success: advisors, judges, courtesy corps members, etc. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy your time in Atlanta so you will have great memories years from now.
Terry Robinson, Instructor (retired)
Know the SkillsUSA Framework and make sure you have the correct official dress for the contest.
Boyd Hestand, Tennessee College of Applied Technology Knoxville
Opening and Closing Ceremonies
Competitors should know and follow the Opening and Closing Ceremony script. Not only the words, but the pronunciation of words. Know where the commas and periods are located. The president should be the strongest speaker, and all team members should match that person. The team should read the standards and competencies in the Technical Standards to know what is scored and what is not. Everyone should be both enthusiastic and natural.
Lisa Romeiser, Eastern Monroe Career Center, N.Y.
Read through the SkillsUSA Technical Standards and make sure you understand every part of the competition. Ensure that you have all the tools/equipment you are supposed to bring. Make sure your presentation is within the time limit. All measurements and criteria are clearly spelled out in the Technical Standards. The biggest issue we see in contest entries is simple mistakes that could have been avoided by triple-checking the contest guidelines.
T.J. Thoss, Orange Technical College — South Campus
Practice, practice, practice! Give your speech to anyone who will listen. Contact local organizations in your area and ask if you can speak at their monthly meetings. Organizations such as the Kiwana’s Club, Toastmasters, Lion’s Club, Rotary, etc., are usually more than happy to support local students and will serve as an ideal audience for you. Record and watch yourself, because it will help you know how you look to the audience when you are speaking, and the recording will show you areas you need to enhance and improve. Don’t be afraid of the judges or your audience. Everyone is rooting for you! Your audience (and the judges) want you to succeed! Enjoy yourself! This is a wonderful opportunity! Soak it up!
Lori King-Taylor, Trinity Performance Solutions
Promotional Bulletin Board
When producing the board, be sure to cut with a straight edge that will provide crisp, clean edges. If the paper is thick enough, you can use an emery board to gently smooth out rough edges. Ask one team member to manage the notebook during the presentation, as the constant movement of the book can be distracting to the judges. Be proud of your creation. The judges are impressed each year with the concepts they see and the presentations they hear. Breathe and SMILE!
G.A. Ketchum, Gordon Cooper Technology Center (Okla.)
Be certain to follow the instructions and take your tests online before you come to conference. There are two tests to take.
Chip Harris, Tennessee State University (Tenn.)
Career Cluster: Manufacturing
This career cluster is focused on planning, managing and performing the processing of materials into intermediate or final products and related professional and technical support activities, such as production planning and control, maintenance and manufacturing/process engineering.
Robotics and Automation Technology
ALL students and teachers should read the Technical Standards. Make sure to bring all listed tools and materials. Check out the contest location and convention center the day before you need to be there so you are oriented. Make sure you know which door you will be entering. Plan to arrive early to avoid any unforeseen transportation delays.
Bryant Abbott, BA Technical Services
Robotics: Urban Search and Rescue
Practice patience. In testing, contests or high stress environments, it’s easy to get frustrated at delays or when things are not moving as fast as you would like. It’s important to understand that things will happen when they happen. Trust yourself. You’ve put in the preparation time, so just relax and perform at your best. Keep an open mind. Learning can and should be fun, and challenges are opportunities if looked at with the right mindset. Regardless of the outcome, you get to choose whether you enjoy the experience.
Tim Lankford, Pitsco
Career Cluster: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
This career cluster is focused on the planning, managing and providing of scientific research and professional and technical services (e.g., physical science, social science, engineering), including laboratory and testing services, and research and development services).
Make sure you have all the test equipment listed on the SkillsUSA website in the Technical Standards that is needed for this competition and are familiar with using each piece of equipment.
Jana Asplund, Nida Corporation
Career Cluster: Transportation Distribution and Logistics
This career cluster is focused on the planning, management and movement of people, materials, and goods by road, pipeline, air, rail and water and related professional support services, such as transportation infrastructure planning and management, logistics services, mobile equipment and facility maintenance.
Automotive Refinishing Technology
Check the contest updates page. The technical committee loads the SkillsUSA site with a ton of information about procedures, products, study guides, technical data sheets, etc. Study those before you get to nationals.
Jessica Neri, PPG
Automotive Service Technology
Take full advantage of the complimentary online eSafety learning modules offered by Coordinating Committee for Automotive Repair (CCAR).
Charlie Ayers, Coordinating Committee for Automotive Repair (CCAR)
Aviation Maintenance Technology
Tune out all the distractions that are present on contest day. Review your work before submitting it to be judged. Read all the contest instructions completely and make sure you understand them before starting the task or project. Keep safety in mind in all tasks.
Wayne King, Kentucky Dept. of Education in Career and Technical Education (retired)
Dan Murdaugh, United Airlines (retired)
Collision Repair Technology
Listen to directions, follow instructions and ask questions if you need to! You’ve already got the skills and that’s why you’re here. Your ability to follow the procedures in each contest segment is what separates medal winners from other competitors. Relax, enjoy your time in Atlanta and have fun; you’ve got this.
Jason Bartanen, Collision Hub
Facilithon — Facility Management
Prepare for the competition through the FM mentor Zoom series, along with watching all the Facilitopics Series 10-minute videos on the FMPipeline.org website. You don’t have to know everything about each topic, just know that the topic may be part of your awesome FM job. Connect to our volunteers at the Facilithon booth for help after the conference.
James Zirbel, FM Pipeline Team Inc.
Motorcycle Service Technology
Have an open mind and try to not be too stressed or put too much pressure on yourself. Have fun and enjoy the learning experience.
Scott Hagins, Universal Technical Institute, Ariz.
Power Equipment Technology
Wear the proper SkillsUSA competition uniform for your contest. Show up 5-10 minutes early for your contest orientation and for the competition. The written exam is given directly after orientation meeting. Do not have a cellphone on you or wear a smartwatch during the competition. Attend the debriefing meeting directly after competition.
Erik Sides, Equipment & Engine Training Council