NEW ORLEANS — From inserting a catheter on a mannequin to repairing a gash on a car bumper, 132 technical and community college students from across the state showed off their skills in an all-day competition Thursday.
The SkillsUSA event was hosted for the first time by Delgado Community College at both the City Park campus in New Orleans and the West Jefferson site in Metairie.
Jawan Ross, the state director for SkillsUSA, said that they try to move the event around the state every few years to engage students, businesses and industry leaders and showcase the different vocations in every region. Ross said the competition doubled in participants from last year.
The state has a high demand for skilled workers, Ross said, and her organization and the schools work in close communication with local businesses and industries to track the present workforce needs as well as those projected in the future.
In June, SkillsUSA hosts an event in Kansas City, Mo. with the gold medal winners from all 50 states. At the national championships, more than 5,500 students compete in more than 90 events, including cabinet making, fire fighting, dental assisting, cosmetology, masonry, plumbing and crime scene investigation.
At Delgado, about 20 competitions were held, along with “quiz bowls,” during which teams from different fields answered questions in a game show-style contest.
In one room, students created blueprints on computer screens, designing a “mother-in-law quarters” addition to a house as part of an all day architectural drafting competition.
In another room, nursing students dressed open wounds, inserted nasal gastric tubes and performed infant CPR on mannequins.
In the automotive building, students checked alignment, diagnosed electrical problems, gave repair estimates and performed collision and paint job repairs.
Donald Davenport, Delgado’s department chair of the motor vehicle technology and technical division, said that the skills competition gives the students a benchmark to see how well they compete against other programs in the state.
And they have fun, instructor David Manno said.
Manno said that with budget shortfalls, he reached out to private businesses to help provide some of the materials needed for the competition. It’s a very supportive community, he said.
“Although we are an institute of education, the reality is we are supplying a workforce needed by the industry,” Davenport said. The school is in constant communication with advisory committees that include business owners and is always adapting to the industry’s trends, Davenport said.
The skill levels increase every year, and Delgado’s program works to mirror that, Manno said.
David Fradella, co-owner of Fradella’s Collision, employs and sponsored one of the students competing. The event “brings hope for the industry for young people coming in,” Fradella said, of the trade he described as having extremely high demand for skilled workers.
Davenport said that he gets multiple calls every week from businesses in need of automotive workers.
After an event like the recent hail storm that caused around $200 million in vehicle damages, Manno said shops were “screaming” for technical specialists.
And it’s not uncommon for good automotive technicians to make six figures, Davenport noted. “You don’t have to be a college graduate to make good money,” he said. Through Delgado’s condensed eight-week program, students leave certified and ready to earn solid starting salaries, Davenport said.
At the Jefferson campus, students also competed in carpentry, computer maintenance technology, welding and heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration.
All competitions included job interview and resume components, simulating and judging a real world job application scenario.
Carol Gniady, executive directory of public relations and marketing for Delgado, said that studies show that associate degree earners are in higher demand and earn more money during their initial years than graduates with four-year degrees.
“We provide students with exactly what they need to go to work in a short amount of time, or to transfer to a four-year college,” Gniady said. The tuition is low, the training is always relevant to the job market and the majority of the students stay in the area to work, she said.
A recent economic analysis by Delgado showed that enrollment has increased by 25 percent since 2008, and in 2010, Delgado had a total impact on economic activity in the city of approximately $511 million dollars.
It’s a wise investment, Gniady said, with the analysis showing that for every dollar the state invests in Delgado, more than $10 is generated in economic activity.
Friay’s closing SkillsUSA awards ceremony will be held from 9 a.m. to noon and will be webcast live by Louisiana Public Broadcasting.