For Students

Turn Your Students Into Champions Via SkillsUSA Competitions

by Sree Roy | June 13, 2013
The beaming winners of the national 2012 Nail Care SkillsUSA Championship (college/postsecondary level).

The beaming winners of the national 2012 Nail Care SkillsUSA Championship (college/postsecondary level).

One tried-and-true way to improve students’ technical proficiency is to enroll them in nail competitions. The heart-thumping, adrenaline-pumping feel of a live contest, not to mention the weeks of practice that go into the preparation and the possibility of winning prizes, can bring the best out of many aspiring nail techs. But your school might not have the time, energy, or enrollment numbers to host your own competition. That’s where SkillsUSA Championships could fill the gap.
“When the Championships were created in 1967, it was decided that contests would run on industry standards rather than educator standards,” says Thomas Holdsworth, director of communications and government relations for SkillsUSA. “The reason was that students were preparing to be employed by industry, not by education, and these contests help them prepare for employment. As a consequence of this decision, the SkillsUSA Championships is one of the best ways for industry to update career and technical education curriculum.”
Nail Care has been an official SkillsUSA contest since 1998. Like the other categories in this nationwide competition, the contest challenges students in an entire occupational career area, not just a skill set in an occupation (for example, there’s a category for auto service technician, but not a contest just for brake repair). The nail care contest consists of six segments, each of which is about 45 minutes. Similar to a contest like Miss America, entrants compete on a local/state level first, then the winners at that level continue competing until finally working their way up to the national conference.

High school students can compete as well, if their school offers nail care training. Here are the high school winners for 2012.

High school students can compete as well, if their school offers nail care training. Here are the high school winners for 2012.


The top three reasons to participate are “students have an opportunity to meet a challenge and to be recognized for their efforts; it’s a very specific way to involve and win the support of local employers and industry for the instructional program; and this is a way students and future employers find each other,” Holdsworth says. Other benefits include making a difference in your community (for instance, cosmetology chapters often do hair in senior citizen homes), recognition from community leaders, and receiving SkillsUSA Champions magazine.
In the nail care category, two gold medals are given out at the national level: one for the high school winner and the other for the college/postsecondary winner. The prize is a donation from the technical committee and sponsors, so it varies from year to year. In the past, one prize was an all-expense paid trip to the Hair and Esthetics Show in Las Vegas.
The national nail care competition judges are selected by the technical committee, which includes representatives from OPI Products, Pivot Point International, Custom Nail Technology, and Milady, and come from all over the country. They’re often from the training departments of the industry and some are salon owners. On the local level, the programs are required to have local industry advisory committees. For nails, committee members would be local salon owners or other representatives from the industry.
To compete students must be members of a SkillsUSA chapter in their schools. National student dues are $8, and state dues are usually between $5 to $7. The individual registration fee for the national conference is $140. State-level registration fees vary from about $50 to $150, depending on the state and on what is included in the fee.
To help winning students pay for travel to the national conference, generally the local community and the school pitch in. “Many chapters have regular fundraising programs — often using the students’ occupational skills or interests (ex. car shows) or standard fare such as concessions at school sporting events — to raise funds for activities including conferences,” Holdsworth says. Some schools build chapter support into the budget. (SkillsUSA is part of the instructional curriculum.) Chapters also generally receive money from local employers, and the national organization offers some travel scholarships to get students to the national conference.
For more information, visit the “join” page of the SkillsUSA website.
Do your students compete in SkillsUSA Championships? Would you recommend it to other schools? Share your thoughts in the comments section (free registration required).

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