More than 1,400 technical education students compete at SkillsUSA state conference in Chattanooga

Students at SkillsUSA Tennessee Leadership Conference

The future workforce of Tennessee will be on full display at the SkillsUSA Tennessee championship competitions in Chattanooga Monday through Wednesday, March 19-21.

More than 1,400 career and technical education students from high schools and colleges across the state will compete in about 110 different contests, demonstrating their skills in scores of career fields from advertising and architectural design to robotics to web-page design and welding. Virtually all technical career areas are covered, including electronics, manufacturing, arts and design, transportation, construction, hospitality, health care, cosmetology and other human services.

The annual SkillsUSA State Leadership and Skills Conference is based at the Chattanooga Convention Center, and the competitions will take place there and at Chattanooga State Community College. Competitions run all day Monday and Tuesday. The complete schedule and list of competitions are available online at the conference website:

The convention center’s exhibit halls will be alive with the sights and sounds of students operating robots, hammering walls, repairing engines, producing digital video, coding computer programs, welding artistic treasures and generally demonstrating scores of other skills.

In addition to the 1,400 student contestants, nearly 1,000 advisors, staff and business and industry volunteers participate in the conference, pushing total attendance to nearly 2,400. The conference also includes a career and trade show, allowing students to network with business and industry professionals who may be recruiting for new employees and displaying their latest equipment. The conference has nearly 100 sponsors from business, industry and organizations.

An opening kickoff session will be held from 5:30 to 6 p.m. ET Monday at the Tennessee Aquarium, with Kayleen McCabe as the keynote speaker. McCabe, a licensed contractor, hosted the “Rescue Renovation” TV series for five seasons on the DIY Network.  Her nonprofit McCabe Foundation helps close America’s skills gap by encouraging young men and women to consider technical and trades careers.

The conference closes with the annual awards ceremonies from 8:30 to noon ET Wednesday in the Convention Center’s Exhibit Hall A, including the selection of the Outstanding Technical Student of the Year.

The Outstanding Technical Student of the Year program was created by the Tennessee Board of Regents, which governs the state’s 40 public community colleges and colleges of applied technology, to share the value of technical education. The student of the year is an ambassador for technical education across the state, speaking at schools, civic clubs, state conferences, board meetings, economic summits and other opportunities.

Last year’s winner, Travis France of Newport, Tenn., was a computer-aided drafting technology student at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Morristown who went on to further his studies at Walters State Community College. He joined two other College System of Tennessee students in a presentation last year to the Board of Regents on the needs and experiences of Tennessee Promise students.

Nine regional finalists from across the state have advanced up through local and regional competitions to the statewide Outstanding Student of the Year competition. The regional finalists are:

  • Ianthe Bryant, Chattanooga State Community College, engineering technology
  • Shania DeRusha, Columbia State Community College, nursing
  • Carrington Fox, TCAT Nashville, building construction technology
  • Kelsey Gadberry, Jackson State Community College, occupational therapy assistant
  • Blake Keylon, TCAT Livingston, industrial automation maintenance
  • Michael Lunnemann, TCAT Athens, automotive technology
  • Kevin Moton, TCAT Chattanooga, industrial electricity
  • Chaquita Shaw, TCAT Jackson, practical nursing
  • Julia Williams, Dyersburg State Community College, computer information systems

“The students participating in the State Skills and Leadership Conference are demonstrating more than just their skills. They are proving that our workforce is prepared to lead the way in every technical area our country needs to maintain a strong global economic presence,” said Boyd Hestand, SkillsUSA state director.

During the competition, students will work against the clock and each other, proving their expertise in occupations such as electronics, computer-aided drafting, welding, automotive service, medical assisting and culinary arts. All contests are run with the help of industry experts, trade associations and labor organizations. Test competencies are set by professional industry standards. The winners will go on to compete in the SkillsUSA National Skills and Leadership Conference June 25-29 in Louisville, Ky.

SkillsUSA is a nationwide partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. SkillsUSA annually serves over 300,000 high school and college/postsecondary students, and their instructors in technical, skilled and service occupation instructional programs. SkillsUSA chapters are in career and technical high schools, and two- and four-year colleges.

SkillsUSA was founded in 1965 to teach students leadership skills to complement their chosen careers. The organization emphasizes respect for the dignity of work, ethics, workmanship, scholarship and safety. For more information about SkillsUSA, visit or