Capping a 21-year run, SkillsUSA’s national competition will hold its last contests in Kansas City next week.
It will be the 50th competition for the National Leadership and Skills Conference, which is open to public high school, college and post-secondary students in career and technical education programs. Next year the competition will move to Louisville, Ky.
Before it came to rest in Kansas City, the competition changed host cities about every three years, said Tom Holdsworth, a spokesman for SkillsUSA. Its 21-year stay in Kansas City is the longest the conference has ever stayed in one place.
“Kansas City has just been a wonderful, wonderful place for us,” Holdsworth said. “My God, once we found a place that fit, we stayed. But kind of like Cinderella, the shoe got a little too tight.”
The competition has outgrown Kansas City’s hotel and convention space, he said. When the conference first came to Kansas City, there were 57 contests. Now it hosts 99.
The age range of contestants has made finding suitable hotels and motels an issue as well. To provide security for students, the convention needs rooms that don’t have exterior access doors.
Holdsworth said SkillsUSA looks for large convention centers that have enough room for the many contests but won’t break the bank. Next year’s Louisville space will offer a million square feet under one roof. Kansas City has had to spread the conference over several spaces.
The conference will run Monday through Friday, but most of the contests are scheduled for Thursday and will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The hands-on competitions, which range from robotics to cosmetology to crime scene investigation, will be held in various locations, most downtown.
Of the 6,000 competing students, 64 hail from metropolitan Kansas City schools. To qualify for the conference, students must win gold in state contests.
About 15,000 students, teachers, business partners, families and friends of competitors are expected to attend the conference, which will bring in roughly $16 million to the Kansas City area. More than 400 volunteers will participate in a community service day June 27. Last year’s conference racked up 58,840 hours of community service during the week.
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