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Equitable access to the “SkillsUSA advantage” presents a clear opportunity for young people nationwide, as it correlates with higher wages in sought-after fields and the potential for life-changing income.

Creating a clear skills advantage: SkillsUSA

“How do we remove barriers to access so that more people from marginalized communities can join SkillsUSA, and benefit from the SkillsUSA Advantage?” asks Dr Ricardo Romanillos, Chief Diversity Officer at SkillsUSA. The SkillsUSA team is committed to addressing this question, and the exciting findings of a newly published report are fuelling its efforts.

The SkillsUSA Advantage Report (PDF, 1.4MB) studied more than 27,000 Career and Technical Education (CTE) students across the USA and found that SkillsUSA members are more likely to succeed in their careers. Importantly, the SkillsUSA advantage is experienced by members, regardless of their gender, race or school socioeconomics.

The report also suggests that an important aspect of equity among CTE students could be uneven access to membership of organizations like SkillsUSA. This is driven by factors such as cost, societal preconceptions around vocational careers, and discrimination around ability, class, race and gender.


We’ve got to do the thoughtful work of saying, where are we and where aren’t we? And if we’re not there, we need to go there. Ultimately, we want to connect companies with schools and colleges in marginalized communities that historically lacked access to CTE opportunities. We have already started the work to make that happen.
— Dr Ricardo Romanillos, Chief Diversity Officer at SkillsUSA


The SkillsUSA team is working towards its long-term goal of building a Geographic Information System (GIS) application to precisely map its SkillsUSA membership and overlay this data with federal education data, census, and labour statistics. The outcome will be a tool empowering the team to map its membership against skill and socioeconomic gaps, so that SkillsUSA can redirect its attention – and resources – towards increasing access where it is needed. From there, the team will provide training to staff and students, and evaluate the impact on individuals and on the economic landscape for partner businesses.

Ricardo anticipates one challenge will be addressing the negative preconceptions associated with CTE, which are justifiably held in various communities. Historically, the education system has channelled students from marginalized backgrounds – such as students of colour, from low-income families, or with disabilities – into CTE programs leading to low skill, low wage, and low track opportunities. Conversely, students from other demographic groups are steered towards high skill, high wage, and high prestige CTE programs. As a result, families from marginalized communities may dismiss CTE as a suitable career pathway.

SkillsUSA addresses this challenge by encouraging and facilitating more young people to attend regional skill competitions. The "if you can't see it, you can't be it" approach allows them to witness skills in action and observe other young people with similar backgrounds thriving.

Ricardo emphasized, “We plan to use the quantitative data we gather to guide advisors, schools, and colleges on the benefits of CTE and nurturing students, particularly those most at risk of exclusion. This advances our efforts to attract more marginalized students to membership by engaging with communities and demonstrating the real-world impact.”

Equitable access to the “SkillsUSA advantage” presents a clear opportunity for young people nationwide, as it correlates with higher wages in sought-after fields and the potential for life-changing income. Businesses also benefit from a domestically sourced workforce rather than outsourced labour and can integrate tangible diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) objectives into their operations. Importantly, promoting skills and opportunities this way has the power to address income inequality and enhance economic mobility in underserved communities – bringing broader benefits to the US economy and productivity.