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Montana teens show off skills in Helena

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Posted at 12:50 PM, Mar 31, 2023

HELENA — Thursday was the second day of competition in the Skills USA Montana state leadership and skills conference, where students from all across Montana converged in Helena to showcase their skills ranging from public speaking to trades work like welding.

The competition brought close to 300 students, advisors, and judges from all across Montana to Helena.

"We do welding diesel mechanics, power, equipment, technology. Just the list can go on. We offer 41 competitions in Montana alone on the national level, we offer 110 competitions. So we definitely we have room to grow too. And Montana," said Roberta Tilleman, State Director for Skills USA Montana.

Darby High Schools student, and Montana State Skills USA Treasurer, Abigail Converse says that this competition isn't only for showcasing skills, but building herself as an individual.

"I know that if I don't do something like this, I'm not going to make connections with people. I'm not going to make connections with colleges or military recruiters or anything. So being a part of this, I can at least get out and meet people so I can have opportunities, most definitely," said Converse.

Tilleman says building on these skills is important.

"Building those skills early and getting that foundation because we have the opportunity to start with them so early in life, if you think about it, they only get so many hours and actual instruction to learn what they're learning and then they go on to the world and live the rest of their life," said Tilleman.

Sandy Bauman, the Dean, and CEO of Helena College say's that while this is a competition, the students are still building life-changing skills and many will earn more than just a medal.

"The winners of each of these competitions will have the opportunity to attend the national conference of the national competition and continue to compete. Other students are also here competing for scholarships," said Bauman.

There will be an awards ceremony Friday for the winners.

Current skills USA Montana State President, Emma Edwards, says this competition also helps guide students towards careers in the trades.

"We lost a lot of trade workers. So getting a bunch of kids into skills and having them get into the trades, it's going to help Montana get on the map for the trades again," said Edwards

At the end of the day, awards or not, Converse says that it's all about improvement.

"I think that we all know that it's for the best and they're our advisor to doing this so that we can get better. We're trying and that's the important thing," said Converse.

The skills event wraps up on Friday.