Kelsey Hicks, 17, of Reed High School in Reno, Nev. won the gold medal in sheet metal at the Nevada Skills USA competition March 26-28 at Sheet Metal Workers Local No. 88’s training center in northeast Las Vegas. The silver medalist was Tanner Vaughn of the Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology High School with the bronze medal going to Nicholas Heward of McQueen High School – all of Reno. Hicks was one of eight competitors– and the only female – in the sheet metal competition this year.
The theme for this year’s contest was “Champions at Work: Educated and Skilled to Lead America.” Winners from state competitions are scheduled to attend the 50th Annual National Leadership and Skills Conference June 23-27 in Kansas City, Mo.
Dan Rose, apprentice coordinator at Local No. 88’s training center, has been involved with SkillsUSA for 12 years and hosts the sheet metal competition whenever it takes place in Las Vegas. Students are judged on the quality of their written exam, interview, resume and hands-on project.
“The group today is the most professional group I’ve seen so far. This introduces these kids to a career choice they may not have known before,” Rose said. Students accepted into the four-year program attend on virtually a full scholarship, earn a living while they are in school and graduate with zero college debt. “It also opens up our facility to those schools that participate. I want them to know what’s out there. Sheet metal apprenticeship is not an alternate to college. We are a college. I’m not a training coordinator. I’m a dean.”
With construction picking up in the Las Vegas Valley, the future of sheet metal work is the apprenticeship program and the students involved in the Skills USA competition, Rose said.
Hicks became interested in sheet metal when she was recovering from a volleyball injury and needed something to keep her busy. A teacher at her school suggested sheet metal, and since her recovery, she has dropped volleyball to hone her sheet metal skills.
“I wanted to win at something. I wanted to do something to not feel like a loser,” Hicks said of her switch to sheet metal. “(My teacher) brought me out of that. I realized I was really good at it, and I dropped volleyball.”
Going into this year’s competition, Hicks was the 2013 Nevada Skills USA champion. She went on to place 13th in the national competition last summer.
“It’s something I enjoy. All my skills are incorporated into it,” Hicks said. “I know it’s what I want to do as a career path.”
SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure the United States has a skilled workforce. Skills USA helps each student excel with the mission to empower its members to become world-class workers, leaders and responsible American citizens.