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Got Skills? These students sure do!

SkillsUSA 2024 Recap
July 9, 2024 at 9:00 a.m.

By Lauren White.

SkillsUSA 2024 proved that the world is in skilled hands with the next generation of tradespeople entering the workforce.

6,647 students. 115 national competitions. Over 200 SkillsUSA TECHSPO exhibitors. 1.79 million square feet of competition area. Welcome to SkillsUSA 2024! Having trained, studied and competed all year, the best of the best from each state convened in Atlanta, Georgia, June 24-28 for the annual SkillsUSA Competition. With over 16,000 attendees, including students, instructors, industry partners, government officials, administrators and more, it was a busy week!

As the premier showcase of America’s most highly skilled career and technical education students, the SkillsUSA Championship is one of the largest hands-on workforce development events in the world. And for the second year, roofing was among one of the skills represented and competed in. The Roofing Pavilion, presented by the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) made a statement this year as the tallest and only two-story interactive, booth experience! Attendees had a chance to try their hand at heat welding TPO, spin the wheel to win fun prizes and learn about roof estimating, technology and repair and maintenance. 

All of this was made possible by months of planning and prep done by the NRCA and John Esbenshade, director of workforce development at the NRCA, in addition to donations, support and sponsorships from the Roofing Alliance, National Women in Roofing (NWIR), Roofing Corp of America, SRS Distribution, RoofersCoffeeShop®, Roofing Technology Think Tank (RT3), Service First Solutions, Roofing Contractor and TAMKO® Building Products.

“This was a watershed year for the roofing industry at SkillsUSA. Under McKay Daniel’s leadership, we’re set up to be special contributors in the CTE space for years to come,” shared John.

This year, 11 talented students – eight high school and three post-secondary – from 10 different states competed in commercial roofing. One high school competitor was from my home state of Oregon! They were tasked with installing thermoplastic (TPO) single ply membrane, a common low-slope roof type, on the same mockup used for NRCA’s ProCertification exam. Over the course of four hours, the contestants installed polyiso insulation, mechanically attached the TPO to the deck, flashed the perimeter edge wall and several penetrations to compete for the national champion title.

“I am so impressed with how far the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) and the Roofing Alliance have come in the past decade concerning Career Technical Education (CTE). To see the presence that the roofing industry had during this year’s SkillsUSA competition is truly impressive. The roofing industry is now very prominent and to be a part of that while watching ten states compete for the roofing championships was an honor,” shared Heidi Ellsworth, RCS president.

This was my first time experiencing SkillsUSA and no number of articles or videos could prepare me for the sheer magnitude of this competition and the maturity and thirst for knowledge these students have. They came to the booth and asked intelligent questions, were eager to heat weld TPO and genuinely wanted to learn. And everyone was so happy and excited to be there. Meeting the teachers, advisors, other industry professionals and of course the students, they all wanted to learn and were thrilled to be there. Once the competition took place, I had a hard time looking away. As soon as John yelled “GO!” these young professionals assessed their mockup and took off with their tools, manipulating materials and completing the given task as I stood there in awe of their precision and skill.

Like me, Wendy Marvin, owner of Matrix Roofing and Home Solutions, was a first-time attendee, and shared, "I wasn't sure what to expect with SkillsUSA having never been before. It's crazy to me that EVERY aspect of this competition blew me away. From the respectful and intelligent competitors and their passionate and supportive teachers to the vendors and staff, this was a top caliber event. I'll return next year for sure!"

What is SkillsUSA?

According to SkillsUSA, there are three goals they aim to fulfill: reward students for excellence, involve industries in evaluating student performance and keep classroom training relevant to employers’ needs. That said, almost 2,000 industry volunteers help create, oversee and judge these competitions, eager to build up the future generation of skilled professionals we need. Local contractors volunteered their time to judge the high school and post-secondary commercial roofing competition during the week.

Some of the skills include computer programming, cosmetology, culinary arts, practical nursing, masonry, welding, broadcast news production, aviation maintenance technology, mobile electronics installation and of course roofing and so much more. For this competition to be successful, it requires 2,000 computers, 12,500 bricks and 1,500 blocks, 60+ stoves and ovens, 25+ refrigerators, 100+ welders, 50+ manufacturing machines and complete laboratories for machining, welding, auto repair and painting. Over $36 million worth of time, equipment and materials are donated by the industries and education contributions. I heard this competition was massive, but I was not prepared to walk through 31 football fields worth of booths, stations, equipment and space!

It’s a year-long process to reach the national competition. Students begin competing in their local SkillsUSA chapters and the winners from that competition advance to their district or regional competitions where they test their skills against competitors from other schools. The winners at that level move on to state competitions in the spring, and the gold medalists advance to compete nationally at the SkillsUSA Championship.

And the awards go to...

While we’re all winners getting to meet this future generation of skilled labor, let’s meet the commercial roofing champions!

Brandon Lopez of South Carolina won first place for the high school category. According to John, “Brandon was one of our returning students from last year and was disappointed in his previous performance. Over the last year, he trained and upped the quality of his work enough to win over seven other students. Brandon scored a 96% on the written test and couldn’t be happier to be the first champion crowned at the SkillsUSA award ceremony.”

In the post-secondary category, Tyler Hutcheson of New York was the first-place winner. “Tyler participated in the TeamWorks contest at nationals last year and decided to give roofing a try. Tyler is in many ways self-taught, doing the bulk of his learning off internet searches and YouTube videos. His advisor found a contractor who’d help with materials and tools, and his work stunned judges – scoring the highest of any student in either category and a perfect score on his written test,” shared John.

In addition to their roofing champion belts, students were awarded $1,200 for first place, $1,000 for second place, $800 for third and $500 for the rest of the competitors. According to John, “We want students everywhere to know the roofing industry pays them for their work, even if their roofs never see sunshine.”

And a surprise addition to the champions winnings is a trip to the 2025 International Roofing Expo (IRE) in San Antonio, Texas thanks to Danielle Griffin, marketing manager, construction group for Informa Markets. She shared, "The growing representation of students in the commercial roofing competition at SkillsUSA is a testament to the progress we are making in addressing labor shortages. By showcasing the opportunities within the roofing industry, we aim to inspire the next generation of skilled professionals. Inviting the high school and post-secondary student winners to our event next year is a step toward empowering these future leaders and ensuring a robust workforce for the industry.”

Learn more about National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) in their Coffee Shop Directory or visit www.nrca.net.

About Lauren

Lauren is the editor for RoofersCoffeeShop®, MetalCoffeeShop™ and AskARoofer™. When she’s not writing or reading articles, she's adventuring with her puppy Kira and trying new recipes. 



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