LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A competition is helping students put their Real World skills to the test, getting them ready for real life.

The SkillsUSA national championships are being held this week in Louisville at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center. The organization spotlights vocational trades such as welding, contracting, engineering, plumbing.

"My competition was CPR and First Aid," said Summer Sypolt, who joined 6,400 students from all across the country. "I participate because it is helping me get a better readiness for the career I want in the future ... It's going to help me become an EMT and also an athletic trainer." 

The event features 102 different competitions in every industry you can imagine. The students represent the hands and minds of tomorrow, and as unemployment hovers near 4 percent, representatives of local companies say they're needed today.

Jason Everett, a regional manager for Amatrol, a Jeffersonville company designing learning systems, came to the championships looking to hire. 

"Every single state that I go to, industry is crying for more workers," he said. "You could make well into the $20-an-hour range with these skills."

The conference is happening as the marriage of education and workforce are part of a national conversation. Last week, the White House announced plans to merge the U.S. Department of Education with the Department of Labor. In fact, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos attended the event and wouldn't answer any questions.

"All education must be demand-driven, and what we're doing here is working with employers from the top companies around the world to bring the skills into these students hands so that can be replicated back in the classroom and all across this nation," said Tim Lawrence, executive director of SkillsUSA.

Politics aside, the kids remind everyone what happens when you bring learning to life.

"You feel like you did really good and you keep going and striving to get better and better," Summer said.

SkillsUSA started more than 50 years ago. The participants advanced from district, state and regional competitions.

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