UVU Students Excel at Annual SkillsUSA Competition

With the Olympics beginning soon, UVU students proudly racked up their own medal count recently in a national competition, SkillsUSA.


With the Olympics beginning soon, UVU students proudly racked up their own medal count recently in a national competition, SkillsUSA. Wolverines brought home five of them — three golds and two silvers — while five students placed in the top 10 nationally with an overall team ranking of fifth in the country.

Each year, the SkillsUSA competition is held and students from around the nation show off their technical skills in hundreds of competition categories. The contests are run and judged by industry professionals, ensuring that students are adequately prepared to enter the workforce upon graduation. The competition is usually held in person, but after cancelling altogether last year, the national event was hosted in a virtual format June 21-24.

Due to COVID-19, two-thirds of the competitions held on the state level were not held this year, drastically reducing the chances for UVU students to qualify for and compete at the national level.

Many of the students filmed themselves competing while others prepared materials to be sent to the national judges. At the end of the national competition, six UVU students were awarded gold medals, including Will Ingram and Joseph Mecham in the audio/radio production category, Curtis Burgess, Oakley Call, and Trent Peterson in the engineering technology category, and Cheyanne Peckham in the firefighting category.

With three categorical gold-medal wins, UVU ranked fourth in the nation for gold medals won. Additionally, three silver medals were awarded to Joshua Coombs in the criminal justice category and Gregory Jessen and Tyler Mecham in the robotics and automation technology category. The state of Utah as a whole won medals in 20 contest categories, earning the state the rank of ninth in the nation.

Gold medalist Cheyanne Peckham not only won the national firefighting competition at SkillsUSA, but she competed at the national level in 2016 in the automotive collision repair and refinishing category. This year, she completed a 50-question SkillsUSA written exam, a 50-question firefighter exam, and a firefighter turnout drill and physical agility course, which she completed at the UVU RCA via a livestream Zoom call.

“To prepare for the contest, I trained physically every day and heavily reviewed my firefighter prep books,” Peckham said. “I kept telling myself, slow is smooth, smooth is fast, and that was the game plan going into it.”

After finding out she had won, Peckham stated that she was “star-struck.” She is two semesters away from completing her bachelor’s degree and will work as a firefighter paramedic in Colorado as well as at the North Fork Fire Department. After that, she plans on getting her flight medic/nursing degree.

According to UVU SkillsUSA director Darin Taylor, it is not uncommon for UVU to place in the top three schools in the nation each year. The school has been ranked in the top five in each of the last 20 years it has attended the national competition.

Even more rewarding than the medals, however, is the fact that students who compete in the organization are exposed to industry professionals and learn the skills they will need to succeed in their careers.

“The thing that impresses me the most as the director is how well we do on a national level each year,” Taylor said. “This says that our programs are up to date — they are being judged on current industry standards, which is a compliment to our students, faculty, and curriculum.”