Connecticut Skill USA VICA Established in 1977



The first national organization for students in trade and industrial education, the Future Craftsmen of America, was formed by educators during the early days of public vocational education.

Although it held two national conventions, the organization did not have strong industry and labor support, and it lasted only two years.

interest resurfaced for a national organization for T&I students among state supervisors and teacher trainers, including Harry A. Mcinert of Illinois, Byrt Shoemaker and Ralph C. Neal of Ohio, J.C. Ruppert of Arkansas, and Joseph Reed and Thomas Bell of Tennessee. Meinert surveyed states with T&I clubs, and at a national conference of Head State Supervisors of Trade and Industrial Education, reported finding 799 clubs in 18 states.

Other early supporters of a national organization included Lowell Burkett of the American Vocational Association (AVA, now the Association for Career and Technical Education), Albert Willis of the National Association of Secondary School Principals and Lee Chapman of the International Association of Machinists.

At an American Vocational Association meeting, a committee was formed to study the issue. Among the members were representatives of the U.S. Office of Education, including Merle E. Strong, John Brown and A. Webster Tenny, and the National Association of State Supervisors of Trade and Industrial Education (NASSnE).

The American Vocational Association encouraged the U.S. Office of Education to hire a short-term employee to form the national T&I organization.

Interest in the organization grew among AVA advisory groups, which included labor and management representatives.

NASSTIE President-elect Don Pound appointed a new committee of people who had worked with state vocational industrial clubs. It included Harry Meinert, Ralph Neal and J.C. Ruppert, as well as Chairman Philip Baird of Illinois, Jesse Carrell of Texas; Larry W. Johnson of North Carolina and Gip Massey of Alabama.

At the year's AVA convention, Otto Pragan of the AFL-CIO, John Harmon of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Albert Willis of the National Association of Secondary School Principals spoke in favor of the proposed organization.

Existing vocational education groups agreed to finance the start- up effort, including those from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. Illinois provided the salary for Philip Baird to be the acting executive secretary of the national organization. The Future Farmers of America made the first financial contribution. Lowell Burkett of the American Vocational Association offered rent-free office space at its Washington headquarters, and the AVA's Trade and Industrial Division provided a grant.

The constitution establishing the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America was adopted at the Trade and industrial Youth Conference May 6-8. Approximately 200 students, advisors and business and labor representatives attended the conference at Nashville's Hotel Andrew Jackson. They approved the name (originating from the many states that incorporated "Vocational industrial Clubs" in their organizations' names), the Skills USA motto, colors, purposes and goals. The official red blazer was patterned after that of Illinois's student organization. Tommy Snider of Griffin, Ga., was elected Skills USA's first student president. Larry W. Johnson, North Carolina's assistant supervisor of T&I education and state advisor for its Vocational industrial Clubs, assumed the duties of VICA executive secretary on July 1.

At the next national conference, in Little Rock, Ark., the VICA emblem was displayed for the first time, and the first official state charters were presented.

The Youth Development Foundation of VICA Inc. was incorporated to sponsor major activities such as conferences, national contests, leadership awards and publications. Early leaders were Laurence R. Howard, educational consultant of the American Gage and Machine Foundation, and Lee Chapman, Grand Lodge representative of the international Association of Machinists.

VICA's first national competitive events were held at its third conference, in Columbus, Ohio. The director was Charles A. Stebbins of New York.

The first national VICA Week was held March 10-16.
VICA headquarters moved from Washington to nearby Falls Church, Va.

VICA's Postsecondary Division was approved at a Constitutional Convention in Memphis, Tenn. Seven postsecondary "founding states" were Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Utah and Washington.

VICA released the Vocational Initiative and Club Achievement Program, which gave every member an opportunity for professional development and recognition.

The first VICA Leadership Handbook was released.

VICA conducted its national competition under a new name: the VICA United States Skill Olympics.

Medals were first presented at the VICA U.S. Skill Olympics. The International Youth Skill Olympics committee approved participation by the United States, which designated VICA as the nation's representative to the competition.

VICA inducted its 1 millionth member.
Nine VICA members competed for the United States at the International Youth Skill Olympics in Madrid, Spain.

Skills USA took its roots in Connecticut in the Fall of 1977 as eighteen Skills USA Chapters were formed and an application was filed with the national organization for chartering the state association.

On April 12 and 13, 1978, the First State Leadership Conference and Skill Olympics for Connecticut was held in Hartford. On June 27, 1978, at the National Leadership Conference in Birmingham, Alabama, Connecticut was officially chartered as the 48th State Association. The membership for Connecticut in that historic first year was 382.

The new VICA National Leadership Center, in Loudoun County, Va., was formally dedicated.

VICA established a new Youth Development Foundation Committee, composed of top-level business executives and labor officials, to encourage and secure financial support. The first chairman was James C. Vorhes of General Motors Corp.

The United States hosted the International Youth Skill Olympics for the first time, in Atlanta.

President Ronald Reagan spoke at the National Leadership Conference in Louisville, Ky.

Two important groups of VICA supporters, the Ambassadors and Alumni Coordinating Committee, were organized.

The United States earned its first gold medal at the International Youth Skill Olympics. Dennis Falls, a VICA member from Arizona, took first place in advertising design.

The Board of Directors approved a long-range plan and mission statement reflecting VICA's partnerships of students, teachers, employers, labor and other officials. The board opened its membership to representatives of technical and health occupations education. An ex-officio board position was created for the chair of the Youth Development Foundation Committee.

VICA's board appointed Stephen Denby, then VICA's national director of development, as executive director.
Efforts began to organize Skills USA chapters in Ontario, Canada. An independent organization, Skills Canada, grew out of these efforts.

VICA released the Professional Development Program nationwide.

An ex-officio position on the Board of Directors was created for the State VICA Directors' Association.

An ex-officio position was created on the Board of Directors for the chair-elect of the Youth Development Foundation Committee.

VICA released the Total Quality Curriculum, which developed skills in Total Quality Management.

VICA's national competition was held under a new name: SkillsUSA Championships. The national conference became known as the VICA National Leadership and Skills Conference. In the United States, international skill contests were then renamed the international Vocational Training Competitions.

Karen E. Ward, corporate member and state association director for Massachusetts, was VICA's first former student member, as well as first woman, elected to chair the Board of Directors.

Signifying its role in the national School-to-Career movement, VICA co-hosted its first national School-to-Career Forum in cooperation with regional offices of the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor.

The Board of Directors voted to change the name of the organization to Skills USA, effective July 4, 1999.

Robert L. Flint of Caterpillar Inc. was the first business representative elected to chair the Board of Directors.

The International Vocational Training Competitions were renamed the World Skills Competition.

The new name, Skills USA, became effective after a week of special activities at the National Leadership and Skills Conference. Nationwide, chapter members began an image campaign in which they spoke to community leaders about the value of skilled employees, their training and Skills USA membership.