Thousands of students are packing Freedom Hall on Friday night to hear who won competitions at SkillsUSA.

Six-thousand middle and high school students went head to head in competitions that required trade skills, from culinary, to carpentry to cosmetology.

“We need skilled workers to do that,” said Chris Arvin, Development Manager at Caterpillar.

The week-long SkillsUSA program at the Kentucky Expo Center takes the very best technical students from all over the country and awards scholarships and other prizes to competition winners in more than 100 different categories.

“We went to districts to see how we did, then we got first at states, and then we came here,” said 18-year-old Corvin Black.

Black and his three teammates came all the way from Missouri, and although they were in the same high school carpentry class, they've never faced a challenge this big.

They had to build an eight-foot-by-eight-foot house in just three days.

Each played a role; an electrician, a plumber, a carpenter and a mason. Their house was judged at the end of the week. They say the competition at nationals was tough.

While they didn't win, they'll take the lessons they learned with them in the future. And they might just land a job at one of the companies, like Caterpillar, which is scouting future talent at SkillsUSA.

“What we like is not only do you get the technical, so you might get the best welder and you might get the best technician, but you are also going to get a leader,” Arvin said. “That's the difference with SkillsUSA and why Caterpillar works with them. You're going to get those kids who have the personal and workplace skills you don't see a lot of other places when you're looking at graduates.”

If you're a student entering the work force, employers are using SkillsUSA to make it clear you can make good living by learning a trade.

“Six-million jobs are available in the United States right now,” said Timothy Lawrence, Executive Director of SkillsUSA. “Six-hundred-thousand of them are in manufacturing alone. The pipeline is not filling quickly enough for employers. SkillsUSA is a partial solution, but a very strong solution to that issue.”

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