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A SkillsUSA competitor in the photography contest sets up a shot.

Students get a chance to show their skills

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SkillsUSA works to ensure America has a skilled workforce. On Saturday, high school and technical college students from around Minnesota showed their skills in a variety of vocations.

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The Minnesota Skills Leadership and Skill Conference was held April 5-7. Students competed in dozens of categories all related to vocation and technical skills. Dakota County Technical College hosted several competitions, including photography, computer maintenance technology, nurse assisting, advertising design, 3D visualization and animation and basic health care skills.

The competitions challenged students in their fields of study. DCTC photography instructor Darrell Tangen said the competitions are based on industry standards and students are judged on how well they meet those standards. Participation gives students a glimpse into the actual working world and where they need to be to make a living.

Participation in SkillsUSA is optional. Tangen said the students who participate show a level of commitment to their craft or vocation.

"It shows the dedication of students to achieve standards. It's very challenging," said Tangen.

DCTC photography student Alex Just has competed in SkillsUSA the last two years. Last year he won the Minnesota photography competition and placed third at the national competition in Kansas City, Mo.

Just said participating lets you see where you are compared with the industry and others going into the business. Just walked away with the gold and will compete at nationals again. This time he hopes to win.

DCTC student Russ Gamache participated in the photography and videography competitions. Gamache said he found competing valuable because it helped him identify areas where he could improve.

"It's good to put yourself under pressure. You really find out what your weak spots are," said Gamache.

Going forward, Gamache knows what he needs to work on to become better at both skills.

Judge and District 917 instructor Dale Engman said the competition provides a valuable experience for students. Engman led the 3-D visualization and animation competition at DCTC over the weekend. Students in the competition had four hours to put together a Rube Goldberg animation.

Engman said he felt it was a challenging but manageable project. While only one team participated, the group still had to produce a quality project to move on. First place winners go on to the national competition. Engman said even in the case of a one-team category, judges don't always send a winner to the national competition.

"They still have to make the cuts," said Engman.

In this case Clay Carlson and Mitchell Rolland did and will go onto compete in Kansas City. At nationals, Engman said, competitors are given a different project and will have eight hours to complete it.

SkillsUSA judge and former competitor Kyle Dishaw said he feels participating in SkillsUSA helped him get a foot in the door. Dishaw works for Activision, a company in Eden Prairie that makes video games.

Overall, 67 DCTC students competed in 30 competitions. DCTC students placed 34 times with 15 gold medals, 10 silver, nine bronze and eight honorable mentions.

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Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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