In June, the SkillsUSA National Competitions was held in Louisville, Ky., for the first time and the change of venue was not the only big change in the competition. For the first time, the manual machining competitions gave way to all CNC machining competitions and there was a noticeable improvement in the level of knowledge, skills and competency among the competitors.

The SkillsUSA competitions traditionally bring the best-of-the-best of high school and community college competitors together. I had the honor to act as one of many volunteer judges from industry. My role included both interviewing candidates for one of the soft skill competitions, as well as entering the final grades for each competitor.

Most of the competitors who I had the opportunity to interview were from community college programs and were clearly at a higher level competency and skill than I’ve seen at this competition in recent years. Most of them were already in an internship program or had already been hired and many of them intend to continue their education to become mechanical engineers.
 
The increasing level of competency showed in the number of competitors’ parts that were machined as well. The competition includes a programming assignment. Competitors use Haas CNC simulators to complete the assignment and then judges review and grade the programming code to assure that the part can be machined on either a Haas HF2 or Haas Turning Center, depending on the competition. 

NIMS manages our industry’s part of the SkillsUSA competition and did a terrific job of bringing this new, revised competition, print and programming assignment for CNC Milling, CNC Turning and CNC Technician. This competition also requires volunteers and support from around the industry including Haas Automation, Sandvik Coromant, Haas HTEC, Autodesk, Vincennes University, L.S. Starrett, CGTech, immerse2learn, Festo and Zeiss.  
The Gene Haas Foundation provided more than $200K in grants for competitor travel and for scholarship awards for the first, second and third place winners of each competition.

This year, Stratasys also managed an Additive Manufacturing competition for the first time after a demo competition was held at SkillsUSA 2014.

For more information about the results of the SkillsUSA competitions or to inquire about volunteering and supporting the competitions in the future, visit www.NIMS-Skills.org or contact me directly at gjones@AMTonline.org or 703-827-5203.

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