A high school welding student works on a project as part of the District 9 SkillsUSA regional competition, hosted on TSTC’s Fort Bend County campus.

SkillsUSA gives students chance to hone technical skills

(ROSENBERG, Texas) – The Welding Technology lab at Texas State Technical College was cold and quiet on a recent morning, with several of its 180 booths occupied by high school welding students absorbed in their work. All of the students concentrated intently on the projects in front of them, sparks skittering across the concrete floor.

“The pressure’s the point,” said Matthew Bakus, one of the TSTC Welding Technology instructors observing the event. It was important, he continued, for the young welding students to pit their skills against those of their peers in a competition setting.

They can learn from one another while letting their own abilities shine.

The welding students were among around 300 District 9 high schoolers participating in SkillsUSA regional events on TSTC’s campus, all of them vying to qualify for the state competition. Other District 9 events were hosted elsewhere, spotlighting the high level of participation in the competition.

“We do this because we want to empower students to understand that their career choices have value,” said Bart Taylor, a SkillsUSA Texas membership specialist. “To have kids have contests at places like TSTC gives them an opportunity to see that there’s relevancy in their career choice.”

Students competed in everything from applied engineering and computer programming to advertising design and forensic science.

SkillsUSA contestants represent the best of the best in many respects, and competing gives them a chance to validate and hone not only their technical skills, but soft skills as well — another absolutely critical component in the market,” said Bryan Bowling, provost of TSTC’s Fort Bend County campus. “Contestants should be incredibly proud to be a part of this.”

Bowling added that he hoped the campus could host further events in the future.

“Having these school districts compete in our state-of-the-art labs is an eye-opener for not only high school students, but faculty and staff that attend from ISDs,” he said.

A group of forensic science and crime scene investigation competitors from Texas City ISD sat on the stairs in the entrance of TSTC’s Industrial Technology Center, taking pictures of each other holding the blue ribbons that signify their advancement to state competition. Their projects ranged from creating crime scenes out of Legos to sketching composites of suspects, and all of them were interested in pursuing careers in the forensics field.

Taylor said all of the competing students will grow to become the future leaders in their respective fields — no matter what path they might choose.

“It’s a chance to dispel the lines between college readiness versus career readiness,” he said. “We’ve got to understand that all career choices have value.”

Learn more about TSTC at tstc.edu.

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