Dixie Fields is among the group of state champions representing Roane-Jackson Technical Center in national competition at the 53rd Annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, June 19– 23, 2017.

Dixie Fields is among the group of state champions representing Roane-Jackson Technical Center in national competition at the 53rd Annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, June 19– 23, 2017.  

Fields, a member of the Roane-Jackson Technical Center SkillsUSA Chapter, and a standout student for the past two years in instructor Clarence Canterbury’s ProStart Restaurant Management program at RJTC, will be competing in hopes of repeating her gold medal state-level performance, this time on a national scale.  Two recent graduates from Roane County also will be representing RJTC in other categories at the national competition.

SkillsUSA is a nationwide partnership of students, teachers and industry representatives who promote leadership and citizenship, while working

together to ensure that America continues to develop a highly skilled workforce.  The organization hosts annual local, state, and national competitive events.  Skills and talents highlighted in these annual competitions are directly related to various technical industries such as culinary arts, automotive service and repair, welding, law and public safety, computer networking and repair, drafting, cosmetology, carpentry, and graphic design, just to name a few.   

During the SkillsUSA West Virginia State Leadership and Skills Conference held earlier this spring at Fairmont State University, Fields, competing in the postsecondary Job Skill Demonstration Open category, triumphed over competitors from across West Virginia to earn first place and claim the state title. Her victory qualified her, for the second year in a row, to advance to the arena of national SkillsUSA competition, where the most accomplished career and technical students from throughout the country will compete in a host of leadership and occupational hands-on, performance-based contests.  Stakes at the national championships are high, with not only medals, championship titles, and bragging rights, but also scholarships, technical equipment, and other valuable prizes hanging in the balance.  Among the most memorable championship prizes presented at last year’s national conference was a brand new Harley Davidson motorcycle. 

The Job Skill Demonstration Open category in which Fields will be competing is unique, in that each competitor may choose to demonstrate any entry-level technical skill used in the occupational area for which he or she is training. Therefore, competitors in this category demonstrate a wide variety of job skills over the course of the contest.  The culinary skill Fields specializes in is cake decorating, so for the competition she will demonstrate and explain basic cake decorating to the judges.  Her demonstration will include how to write on cakes and create different borders, as well as how to craft and place decorative roses to create a pleasing aesthetic effect.  

As this will mark her second consecutive trip to SkillsUSA’s annual national event, Fields is excited to attend and anxious to compete.  Of returning to Louisville, Fields said, “I’m ecstatic, I’m thrilled!” She has a few words of advice for others who find themselves in a competitive situation. “Try to enjoy what you are doing and don’t feel pressured,” she said. “Just be confident, be yourself, and have fun with it.”       

Those in attendance at the national event will have the opportunity to do more than simply focus on the competition.  In fact, some of Fields’ fondest memories of her last trip to Louisville center around other aspects of the conference.  “Simply being at nationals, where every state is represented, and meeting so many people was a highlight for me,” she said.  Attendees trade state pins as a way of meeting and getting to know one another.  “I think I ended up with 32 different state pins last time,” Fields said proudly. “This time I hope to get even more – including Hawaii!”   

The overall philosophy behind SkillsUSA’s national championship events centers around rewarding students for excellence, involving industry in directly evaluating student performance, and keeping training relevant to employers’ needs.  To learn more about the SkillsUSA organization or the upcoming national conference, contact Roane-Jackson Technical Center (Melissa Wilkinson, Lead SkillsUSA Advisor) at 304-372-7335, or visit www.skillsusa.org.