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Students participate in SkillsUSA conference

The New Richmond High School SkillsUSA team, which includes (from left) advisor Tom Leque, seniors Cory Stickan and Brice Anderson, and juniors Tyler Flanum, Colton Jenderny and Drew Kidd-Pelletier, took part in the 41st annual SkillsUSA State Leadership and Skills Conference on April 29-30, at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. (Photo by Jordan Willi)

From April 29-30, five New Richmond High School students took part in the 41st annual SkillsUSA State Leadership and Skills Conference at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison.

“It is a program for tech ed students to showcase their skill in the technology fields,” SkillsUSA advisor Tom Leque said. “It is more than just job skills, it is about also leadership and helping form a coherent, professional workforce.”

SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. SkillsUSA helps each student excel. SkillsUSA is a nonprofit organization serving teachers as well as high school and college students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations, including health.

“I find this competition to be a really good measure of what we are doing well and what we need to improve on,” said Leque, who is also a tech ed teacher at the high school. “It also gives the students the chance to compete against their peers and that is important because ultimately they are going to be competing for the same job as those other kids. It is also to bridge the skills gap because once the baby boomers are gone there is going to be a huge skills gap.”

According to Leque, all five students performed well in their events at the conference with senior Cory Stickan taking second place in cabinetmaking and advancing to the national conference in June.

“I qualified for state because the person who got first couldn’t make it to the national conference,” Stickan said. “At all the competitions you could build something then bring it down and show it, make it there or take part in the team competitions as well for things like engineering and different projects.”

There are no qualifiers for taking part in the state conference; however, due to high costs of the competition, most advisors only take the students they feel have the best chance to do well, Leque said. The other students who participated in the state conference were senior Brice Anderson (CO2 Car) as well as juniors Tyler Flanum (third place CNC Machining), Colton Jenderny (fourth place Precision Machining) and Drew Kidd-Pelletier (fourth place Sheet Metal).

“I used our machine here at school for my project, so the judge came here and looked at my part and took it with him when he went to grade it,” Flanum said. “When I got there I had to take a written test since my project was done already.

This year, the New Richmond SkillsUSA team had only five members, but Leque is hoping that more students will take part next year after the group gets more exposure and other students see how much fun the participants have. “So far we have five kids who are part of the group, but we are hoping to bring in more kids next year,” Leque said. “All these guys did very well at the state level. This is our first year doing this so we are hoping to promote it more next year and get more kids to participate. Our goal is to double in size, but it is something that we are looking for people who want to be a part of something and want to work.”

For the students who take part in the conference competitions, one of the most appealing parts of the competitions is the chance to show off their skills like other groups and athletes at school get to during their games and meets.

“This competition was an opportunity to show off our skills and actually apply them to a real world situation,” Jenderny said. “Kids can excel at their sports or academicclubs, but tech ed kids never really have anything to be a part of.”

Leque will accompany Stickan to the national competition in Kansas City, Mo., from June 23-27.

“We would like to thank our sponsors, the school district, community and the parents for making this possible,” Leque said. “Without the taxpayers we wouldn’t have anything. They went through a referendum to get this school and it is impressive.”

For more information on SkillsUSA, visit Anyone interested in joining the New Richmond SkillsUSA group can contact Tom Leque at.

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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