"If every one of the nearly 20,000 high school students in the district graduated ready to take a job in the skilled workforce, we still wouldn't have enough for what we're going to need fill demand in the near-term," she said. "This is creating pressure on the on industry, but it's also giving credibility back to the idea that you can graduate from high school with a diploma and some skill certifications and now you're prepared to go out and get a living wage job, and when you get that job, now there are opportunities for you to move along a good career path, get more schooling if you want to, and continue to grow. We're training our kids to take initiative, step out and push themselves a little farther, apply knowledge, work hard at anything that comes their way, and become tomorrow's leaders in the skilled workforce, move any industry they're in forward. Career and technical education programs like the district's program and SkillsUSA aren't just about trade skills."
Ryan's daughter, Gilliana, a junior at the STEM Academy at Galena High School, is taking her mom's work to heart and running to be a state officer for SkillsUSA. State officers help organize the activities of the state chapter, represent the state at the national level, and help build community involvement in the program. These positions train students in leadership skills, build confidence and connections, and they also provide a way for students interested in the program to participate even if their interests aren't a direct match with the trades chosen for the competition.
"I'm studying environmental engineering, but there's no component for that in the competition," the younger Ryan says. "So I decided to run for state officer as a way of participating. The chapter at my school is very small, so one of my motivations in running is to bring attention to the SkillsUSA program there, to bring more students in. I think it's worth their time."
Brian Osborn, instructor for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 401 apprenticeship program in Reno, echoes that sentiment.
"I'd encourage any student who's considering joining the SkillsUSA program to absolutely give it a try. We have a lot of fun, it's a great experience, and hey, you can win some great prizes." ■
"Students are being prepared for jobs that no longer exist. Here's how that could change." — NBC News
"Hidden gem of the community graduates 98% of students and prepares them for careers." — Reno Gazette-Journal
"10 to watch in 2015: Dana Ryan aims for better education." — Reno Gazette-Journal