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2023 NLSC Sets Records, Changes Lives

The 2023 National Leadership & Skills Conference (NLSC) was the largest in SkillsUSA history, full of awe-inspiring, adrenaline-fueling and life-changing moments we’ll never forget.
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Photo by Lloyd Wolf.

The SkillsUSA members who attended this year’s inspiring National Leadership & Skills Conference (NLSC) — the largest in SkillsUSA history — could probably win in every superlative category their hometown schools could ever name: “Most Likely to Succeed,” “Most Spirited,” “Best Dressed” (those red blazers!), “Most Talented Craftsperson,” or “Best Smile” — just to name a few.

From June 19-23 in Atlanta, SkillsUSA celebrated proudly at the week-long NLSC, which is known by its own superlative of being the ultimate recognition of excellence in career and technical education. Official registration reached 16,102 (up nearly 2,500 from last year), with an estimated economic impact to Atlanta of $26 million.

The NLSC welcomed thousands of industry partners, students and educators from across the nation for a week of networking, learning and personal growth. The Opening Session — sponsored by Snap-on Incorporated and Toyota —filled State Farm Arena to the rafters with energized members ready to enjoy the eye-popping graphics and pyrotechnics as the organization delivered national honors and some inspiring member stories.

During her address at the session, SkillsUSA Executive Director Chelle Travis shared the exciting news that SkillsUSA has achieved the largest annual membership since its founding in 1965, with more than 380,000 student and teacher members. The exciting news galvanized the audience in a sense of collective pride as Travis encouraged them to make the most of every moment. “It’s important to understand our past and to plan for the future,” she said, “but action only happens in the now — that’s where lives are changed, goals are achieved and dreams are realized.”

SkillsUSA TECHSPO, the largest and most exciting career and technical exposition in the nation, featured 197 interactive exhibits (the most ever) from industry and education, and these exhibitors were there to meet and engage with the nation’s most highly skilled career students.

The threat of rain forced the Champions Festival — sponsored by FrontDoor Inc. — indoors, but nothing could dampen the spirits of the thousands of students who participated. 

Over 1,100 business and industry partners joined NLSC during the week, many through TECHSPO or the SkillsUSA Championships, making this the largest interactive education-industry event of the year.

The week’s main event, of course, was the SkillsUSA Championships, with nearly 6,000 state champions ready to test their skills against the best career and technical students in the nation in 110 career competition events, the most ever held, from 3-D Animation to Welding and everything in between. The Championships were conducted across all three lower exhibit halls of the Georgia World Congress Center, covering 1.79 million square feet (equivalent to 31 football fields or 41 acres).

Many attendees jumped into the numerous professional development opportunities offered at NLSC, too. SkillsUSA Engage provided training for 114 educators while Activate and Leverage helped 374 students develop leadership skills to prepare them to guide their fellow members this school year.

Over 260 educators participated in the Academy of Excellence, where they learned to build a comprehensive SkillsUSA chapter. Over 270 teachers and students participated in SkillsUSA University sessions that helped them develop technical skills from the best in each career field. A new Advisor Summit provided a unique track for 50 teachers who were not supervising students and could therefore prioritize their own professional development.

Throughout the week, delegate sessions were conducted by middle school, high school and college/postsecondary students appointed to conduct the organization’s official business and elect new national officers for the 2023-24 school year. Delegate committees were also held to offer feedback on important topics related to SkillsUSA’s future.

The action wasn’t just happening at meetings and events, though; Student networking took place continuously throughout the conference, especially through the time-honored tradition of pin trading. Students also explored the conference in a scavenger hunt competition called “Expedition NLSC” with missions to complete. The winning team received a gift card and a suite for the closing Awards Session!

On Friday morning, more than 400 SkillsUSA students and advisors applied their skills and commitment to give back to the local community as part of the “Build Skills. Do Good. Complete the Cycle.” community service project. Volunteers assembled 90 bicycles and provided them to the Shaquille O’Neal Boys & Girls Club of Henry County and Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta. In addition, SkillsUSA members collected and donated over 5,000 pairs of socks to CHRIS 180, a local organization with a mission to improve the community by providing children, adults and families with high-quality behavioral health services and support systems.

Other NLSC highlights included much-deserved national recognition for the many adults who mentor students and support SkillsUSA. The 2023 SkillsUSA Advisor of the Year was Andrea Barallardos from Douglas High School in Arizona. Other individuals honored for their contributions or achievements included 15 Outstanding Career and Technical Educators, three Honorary Life Members and three Hall of Champions recipients. In addition, 24 Models of Excellence schools interviewed for top honors and were celebrated at a gala dinner at the Georgia Aquarium, where three national chapters were named the top Models of Excellence for representing the three components of the SkillsUSA Framework: Personal Skills, Workplace Skills and Technical Skills Grounded in Academics. To learn more about these members and schools, check out the 2023 Awards & Recognition Book.

The closing Awards Session capped off the exhilarating week as more than 1,100 medals were presented to the top career and technical education students in the nation. A new national officer team was also introduced and a new member theme was unveiled to guide the upcoming school year: “SkillsUSA: No Limits.”

The 2023 NLSC was the biggest and best ever, and we’ll look to top it June 24-28, 2024. For all things NLSC, make sure to visit our NLSC microsite.

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