KANSAS CITY, Mo. (NNS) -- Sailors attached to Navy Recruiting District (NRD) St. Louis attended the five-day annual SkillsUSA Championship Competition June 24-28, recruiting highly motivated individuals in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and other vocational fields.
SkillsUSA is a national nonprofit organization serving teachers and high school and college students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical, and skilled service occupations, including health care.
The competition is rigorous, so the students who have advanced to this level have demonstrated the motivation and hands-on aptitude the Navy is seeking to maintain its technological base.
"This is an excellent program. The students I met are all 'high end' students - motivated and eager to succeed, exactly the kind of recruits the Navy wants," said Cmdr. Alan Schiaffino, executive officer of NRD St. Louis.
SkillsUSA includes local, state and national competitions in which students display occupational and leadership skills. More than 5,000 outstanding career and technical education students - all state contest winners - compete hands-on in a wide variety of different trades, ranging from masonry to diesel engine troubleshooting to computer networking. SkillsUSA also works to establish industry standards for job skills training in the lab and classroom, and helps to promotes community service.
"Students sometimes come in with a difficult situation -- a difficult background, or maybe they aren't very interested in high school or after that college, or going in and entering the workforce - this helps gather their interest at a very early age," said Maria Soto, a SkillsUSA alumni and volunteer. "I think it's very important to find out what you don't want to do as far as a career is concerned, as well as what you do want to do."
Sailors manned the Navy STEM Tour booth, answering questions the competitors and their families had about STEM related technology used by the Navy, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, explosive ordinance disposal robots, and the Navy Sea-Perch program that is integrated into the STEM tour display.
"The students and graduates who compete at SkillsUSA are truly among the best and brightest our country has to offer. And it is at STEM-related events such as this that we have not only the opportunity to reach out to the kids directly, but also to their teachers as well. This access allows us to introduce more effectively the Navy's emphasis on STEM to educators, parents, and students alike," said Jon Dickson, NRD St. Louis Education Specialist. "It's satisfying to change people's perception of what the Navy does and the type of people we seek to recruit."
While attending the competition, students also obtained information on the area's top colleges, vocational institutions, and Skills related employers as well as scholarships offered through the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC).
"As we develop the attendees' curiosity about the various technical programs we offer, such as nuclear power and advanced electronics, many of those individuals expressed interest in the NROTC Scholarship program," said Dickson. "More students and parents are looking for scholarship opportunities because of rising college tuition costs."
SkillsUSA covers a wide variety of job fields from auto repair, cosmetology, and photography to computer repair and 3-D modeling. It provides quality education experiences for students in leadership, teamwork, citizenship and character development. The competition builds and strengthens self-confidence, work attitudes and communications skills while emphasizing overall quality of work, high ethical standards, and superior work skills, life-long education, and pride in the dignity of work.
"The important thing is it shows students a variety of options that they can they can choose to pursue and maybe its gets them a little more interested in things like math and science but also what to choose as a career option later on," said Soto.
NRD St. Louis' area of responsibility covers more than 200,000 square miles, encompassing Missouri, Kansas, Central and Southern Illinois, and a portion of Kentucky. More than 250 officers, enlisted, and civilian staff operate 54 recruiting stations, two Navy Officer Recruiting Stations and the headquarters. Additionally, two Military Entrance Processing Stations - one at the headquarters in St. Louis and one in Kansas City, Mo., - handle applicants' processing, classification, and physical examinations.
For more news from Navy Recruiting District St. Louis, visit www.navy.mil/local/nrdsl/.