Reflections on the 2011 SkillsUSA Championships

Late last month, top students from across the country competed in a contest to test their machining and programming skills. One of the coordinators reflects on the meaning and value of this event.


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Winners of the machining competitions received medals for their efforts.


— There were more contestants this year than last.


— More young women were involved as contestants.


— Some of the college-level students are older than usual because they are training for new careers or are returning from military service.


— All of the contestants benefit from competing with up-to-date machines, cutting tools and related equipment.


These were some of Keith Crawford's observations about the 2011 SkillsUSA Machining and CNC Championship, which he shared with me in a recent phone interview. Keith is one of the cutting tool coordinators from Sandvik Coromant who helped with this year's contest. He’s been involved with the championships for many years, so he sees trends and changes in the makeup of the contestants.


The annual SkillsUSA National Championships give top students in technical and vocational training programs on the secondary and post-secondary level a chance to prove their capabilities. The championships, which took place in Kansas City, Missouri, June 20-24, include three skills contests related to machining: Precision Machining Technology, CNC Milling and CNC Turning. In each contest, gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded to the top-scoring contestants.


One of Keith’s roles is to see that all of the contestants have plenty of the appropriate cutting tools to perform the machining tasks that are the basis of the competition. “Many of the students don’t have the opportunity to work with the latest inserts, toolholders and related supplies because their schools and training programs often have limited budgets,” he says. “For the contest, they have access to the kind of tooling they can expect when they start careers after graduation,” he says.


The machining contests at SkillsUSA rely on the support of numerous sponsoring organizations and metalworking product suppliers. The National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) coordinates the three national-level contests at the championships. The three major commercial sponsors are Haas Automation, Immersive Technologies and Sandvik Coromant.


“Sandvik Coromant supports the contests because the company recognizes that contestants represent the future of the metalworking industry in the United States,” Keith says. Although the contestants may some day be Sandvik customers, Keith says this is not a priority to the company. “We want the students to do their best and they need modern cutting tools to do this—that’s the main reason we contribute materials and many hours of involvement,” he says. Contestants who advance to the international skills competition in London, England, later this year will be provided complete sets of the necessary cutting tools, courtesy of Sandvik Coromant. 

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