A proctor announces the start of a Maxwell High welding student’s entry in the SkillsUSA State Championships.

As with so many other endeavors in the past year, the global Covid-19 pandemic forced significant changes to the 2021 SkillsUSA State Championships in Georgia. Typically hosted by CEFGA in Atlanta each March, the event was turned into a statewide, hands-on remote competition this year.

Charles Crosby, a construction industry consultant who works with SkillsUSA, CEFGA, technical chairs and industry partners to organize and stage the contests, explains the task this way:

“Everyone involved in the contests had to change their perspective, their thinking. We challenged everyone to go from, how do we take a contest that happens at the Georgia World Congress Center, where students, judges and materials show up at one location, to:

  • How do we get materials for 17 construction-related contests to at least 35 different school locations (secondary and post-secondary combined)?
  • How do we design and communicate a contest that will be completed in almost total isolation by almost 200 contestants?
  • And how do we capture and report the results of almost 200 remote contests so that over 70 judges can access that information to score the results and determine who are the best in Georgia?

All of those challenges were met, thanks to the efforts of the tech chairs, judges, SkillsUSA secondary team, SkillsUSA post-secondary team, the CEFGA team and more.

“This was definitely a different year, but the same thing happened this year that happens every year to make the event successful – awesome teamwork by all involved,” Crosby says.

Detailed instructions had to be shared with proctors to ensure contests were carried out accurately and consistently.

One notable example of such diligent preparation is Chris Tobiasson, technical chair for the welding contests, who packaged and delivered welding and welding fabrication materials to key central locations throughout the state. Tobiasson made three trips on three different days, covering more than 1,250 miles around south, west and central Georgia, as well as several more trips around metro Atlanta. Holston Gas, one of Tobiasson’s suppliers and a supporter of the contests, also made several deliveries in the Rome area.

To ensure contestants had the appropriate materials and equipment, tech chairs submitted lists of what each location would need. With assistance from CEFGA, Home Depot e-gift cards were distributed to teachers to purchase many of the items for their students.

Crosby says technical chairs and proctors faced unique challenges this year. Tech chairs had to translate contest instructions and details – including what information proctors needed to collect – into a written format. For each of the almost 200 contest locations, a proctor was present to monitor and record the actions and results of each contestant.

“The proctors were the eyes and hands of the tech chair and judges for each contest,” Crosby says. “Then all of this information they collected had to be uploaded from each school into a format that could be used by all of the judges working remotely on various systems and platforms. All of this was thought through and set up by two SkillsUSA teams – Ashley Brown and Jordan Sewell, and Tjazha Mazhani and Amy O’Dell – who reviewed and prepared all of the content to be shared in a consistent manner.”

Crosby, who calls SkillsUSA “my favorite thing that I do all year,” adds: “A lot of discussions were held and parallel planning was done before making the final tough decision in January to go to the hands-on remote format. The bottom line is that the team came together and persevered despite a pandemic, investing their time, resources and passion in our youth and our future.”

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