SkillsUSA History

History of VICA-SkillsUSA


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 did not survive the Great Depression.


Interest resurfaced for a national organization for trade and industrial students among state supervisors and teacher trainers, including Harry A. Meinert of Illinois; Byrl Shoemaker and Ralph C. Neal of Ohio; J.C. Ruppert of Arkansas; and Joseph Reed and Thomas Bell of Tennessee. Meinert surveyed states with trade and industrial chapters, 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 [ACTE]), Albert Willis of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and Lee Chapman of the International Association of Machinists. At an AVA 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 (NASSTIE).


The AVA encouraged the U.S. Office of Education to hire a short-term employee to form the national trade and industrial 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 1964 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.


The Vocational Industrial Clubs of America Inc. (VICA) was founded by students and teachers who were serious about their professions and saw the need for more training in the areas of leadership to complement their chosen vocation. In Nashville, Tenn., 14 states were represented, as VICA chose its name, colors, motto, purposes and goals.


VICA membership was 29,534 in 1,074 clubs in 26 chartered states and territories.

The first issue of the VICA magazine was produced.


VICA added five more states, began holding competitive events and introduced uniform. Membership was well over 40,000.


Plans were announced for the national VICA center to be located near Washington, D.C.

VICA members were received by President Lyndon B. Johnson in the Cabinet Room of the White House. The students give the President a handmade gavel and sounding block inscribed, “To Lyndon B. Johnson – America's Great Educational President.”


VICA membership hit 82,000 with new chapters, college/technical membership and VICA's yearly themes. The first theme was “Speak Up for America.”

The organization's Postsecondary Division (now College/Postsecondary) was approved at a constitutional convention in Memphis, Tenn. Seven “founding states” were Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Utah and Washington.


The VICA Leadership Handbook was published for the first time, and a student campaign to raise funds for the National Leadership Center got underway. The theme was “Skills Build America.”


At the seventh annual National Leadership Conference, there were 25 competitive activities.


VICA membership rises to 125,000.


VICA membership exceeds 150,000.


VICA purchased land for the new National Leadership Center in Leesburg, VA.

VICA members met with President Gerald Ford.


VICA celebrated its 10th anniversary with the induction of the 1 millionth member.


5,000 VICA members attended the U.S. Skill Olympics in Miami Beach.

Membership reached a quarter of a million with 10,000 active chapters.


Contributions from VICA alumni, friends and members to purchase the land where the National Leadership Center now sits topped $56,000.


Groundbreaking began for the National Leadership Center in Leesburg, Va.


The National Leadership Center was dedicated after 15 years of planning and fundraising.


VICA started the Youth Development Foundation Committee to ensure our programs were relevant to both students' and industry's needs, and that financing was available to support them.


VICA played host to the International Youth Skill Olympics, where VICA members joined 274 international contestants from 14 countries in 33 contests.

Nearly 7,000 VICA members attended the National Leadership Conference and U.S. Skill Olympics.


The first year VICA incorporated industry update seminars as part of the National Leadership Conference.


President Ronald Reagan spoke at the National Leadership Conference and said, “American industry as well as American educational institutions should take note of the VICA experience.”


The organization attained its three-and-a-half-millionth member.


VICA's 20th anniversary; membership had grown to 12,632 chapters. The U.S. Skill Olympics had gone from five competitive events to 38.

The first International Skill Olympics gold medal was awarded to the United States. Dennis Falls of Arizona brought home the Graphic Design gold medal.


The board of directors opened its membership to representatives of technical and health occupations education.

An ex-officio board position was created for the chairman of the Youth Development Foundation Committee.


The Professional Development Program was created, and in testing Level 1, 6,500 students and teachers took part.


The board of directors appointed Stephen Denby as executive director; efforts began to organize VICA chapters in Ontario, Canada.

VICA released the Professional Development Program nationwide.


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


VICA celebrated its 25th anniversary.


Robert Pope won the gold medal for Welding in the Amsterdam International Youth Skill Olympics. He made history by receiving the first gold medal in Welding for the United States, and by obtaining the most points in any IYSO contest since its beginning.


VICA won the Vocational Instructional Materials (VIM) Outstanding Mediated Instructional Award for its parliamentary procedure video entitled “Rules of the Game.”


Nicholas Peterson won the bronze medal in Welding at the International Youth Skills Olympics in Taiwan.


The new name of the United States Skill Olympics was announced. The competition's name would be the SkillsUSA Championships — to become effective during the National Leadership and Skills Conference in 1995.


Branden Muehlbrandt won the silver medal in Welding at the International Youth Skill Competitions (IYSC, officially renamed from the International Youth Skill Olympics).

The SkillsUSA Championships became the new official name of the national competition.

VICA received its official designation as a CEU sponsor.

The new Professional Development Program and the Total Quality Curriculum were introduced to the public.


VICA received the Oracle Award by the International Association of Continuing Education and Training (IACET) for the new Professional Development Program (PDP).

VICA received the Vocational Instructional Materials (VIM) Award of Excellence for the PDP.

U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley, Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, and J.D. Hoye, executive director of the Department of Education's School to Work Office, spoke at VICA's Washington Leadership Training Institute's Congressional Breakfast.


VICA held its first School-to-Work Conference at the NLSC.

VICA was given a Grand Award for its website by the Awards for Publication Excellence (APEX).


The board of directors voted to change the name of the organization to SkillsUSA–VICA.

Robert Flint of Caterpillar Inc. was the first business representative elected to chair the board of directors.


VICA officially changed to SkillsUSA–VICA on July 4, 1999, at the National Leadership and Skills Conference.

Students competing in the WorldSkills Competition in Montreal placed higher than ever before.

Nationwide, chapter members began an image campaign in which they spoke to community leaders about the value of skilled employees, their training and SkillsUSA–VICA membership.


Timothy W. Lawrence, a former student member, became national executive director. Formerly national director of business and industry partnerships, Lawrence had also been a classroom instructor, industry employee, state association director and member of the board of directors.

An ex-officio position was created for National Association of State Directors of Career and Technical Education Consortium.


The board of directors approved shortening the name of the national organization from SkillsUSA–VICA to SkillsUSA, effective Sept. 1, 2004.


An ex-officio position on the board of directors was created for a college/postsecondary representative.


On Sept. 1, the organization's name officially changed to SkillsUSA.


The mortgage was paid off on the National Leadership Center.


A student liaison was added to the national board of directors. The board approved having the chair of the national officers' Joint Executive Council fill this role. The first to serve was Nicole Dillard of Wyoming.


SkillsUSA released the first Skill Connect Assessments as part of its new Work Force Ready System. Driven by industry, the technical knowledge and skill assessments correspond to many career cluster areas of training.


SkillsUSA received a Grand Award for its magazine's digital edition from APEX (Awards for Publication Excellence).

The SkillsUSA Career Essentials suite was introduced, including SkillsUSA Career Essentials: Foundations, SkillsUSA Career Essentials: Experiences (replacing the Professional Development Program) and SkillsUSA Career Essentials: Assessments (formerly the Work Force Ready System and Skill Connect Assessments).