By some measures, 22 years is a long time. By others, it’s no time at all. For me, two decades passed in the blink of an eye! It was because my work at 3M enabled me to judge the same technical skills contest that I competed in when I was fresh out of high school.
After graduating from high school, I decided I wanted to attend a career and technical school rather than a conventional four-year university, or at least get my start that way. I enrolled in the Collision Repair Program at St. Paul College and took great pride in this newfound craft. My instructor noticed and encouraged me to participate in SkillsUSA, which was called VICA at the time.
SkillsUSA is a terrific organization. It’s a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to help make sure America has a skilled workforce. They do it through a structured program of citizenship, leadership, employability and technical and professional skills training. More than 14,500 instructors and administrators are professional members of SkillsUSA.
At that first state competition, I didn’t know what I was getting into. I wasn’t especially well-prepared, but I dug in my heels and competed. Though I may not have qualified for nationals, I never forgot the experience, and I knew I had found my field.
A decade later, I was working for 3M in the Automotive Aftermarket Division when I was invited to help judge a SkillsUSA state competition – and I’ve been doing that ever since. Given the breadth of our product portfolio – everything from painting to frame repair – 3M is a perfect fit to support this contest and has been a huge sponsor of the collision repair and painting contests for years.
Since 2008, I’ve been part of the national technical committee for SkillsUSA and am also leading the Masking and Paint Code ID segment of the Automotive Refinish Technology contest. Our contest has become one of the most technologically advanced within all the disciplines. The magnitude of what needs to be set up for the contest day actually surprises me each and every year. This year we arrived on Saturday to prepare for Thursday’s contest!
Each year 3M makes a large donation covering all masking, safety, abrasives, adhesives and fillers for the entire contest. We look at it as investing in our own future workforce and equipping them with the materials required to develop skills they’ll need to succeed outside of school. And it wouldn’t be terrible to have them leave the national competition essentially wondering if other brands even exist...
I’m grateful that 3M allows me the opportunity to pursue this passion within the boundaries of my current role. 3M is getting more and more active with the WorldSkills organization as well, which is fantastic. Bringing positive focus and attention to the skilled trades is vital. Being in such high demand, many of these skilled trades can employ graduates at fulfilling, well-paying jobs. An education in the skilled trades is valuable because it provides a foundation that can lead to a lifetime of career opportunities.
After 13 great years with 3M and still excited about the future, I’m very proud of how and where I started, and that SkillsUSA was part of my foundation.