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Checking in from SkillsUSA

Posted by TestOut Staff on

It’s summer time! Or as most of us think of it, VACATION TIME! That blessed time away from the daily grind of e-mails, ringing phones and demanding deadlines. Vacations are a time to decompress and recharge our work batteries. According to a 2016 report from Project Time Off, an organization whose admirable aim is to transform American attitudes and behavior toward taking time off from work, U.S. workers took an average of 16.2 days of vacation in 2015.

Students succeed at SkillsUSA!

That sounds pretty good until you realize that 55 percent of us left vacation time unused during the year. Our devotion to work adds up to an astounding 658 million unused vacation days. There are a lot of reasons why people don’t take vacation days: too busy, fear of being seen as replaceable, don’t want to return to a massive pile of work, can’t afford to take time off and, not surprisingly, a belief that only they can do their jobs.   

Every employee needs a vacation, and like most employees, I look forward to mine. But unlike most employees, part of my job is what I call a “working vacation,” those exciting days when I’m hip-deep in work, having an enjoyable time, and reminding myself why I love my job.

I had five of those working vacation days just last month, attending SkillsUSA in Louisville, Ky. It was the 53rd annual National Leadership and Skills Conference (NLCS). For five glorious days, I rubbed elbows with more than 16,000 career and technical education students, teachers, judges and industry partners. It was a blast.

The best part of the week, and what reminded me of how much I love my job, was meeting students. They are an awesome and impressive bunch of young people. So many came up to me and expressed appreciation for TestOut’s help as they worked to earn their PC Pro, Security Pro, Network Pro, and CompTIA A+ certifications.

One encounter stands out: A young lady, participating in the Info Tech competition, introduced me to another younger girl who was following her around and observing the competition. The older girl explained that, during the 2016 event, she herself had been an observer and was mentored by an older student. Now here she was mentoring a new student. Both girls were beaming with confidence and an excitement for IT. It was great to see.  

Of course, none of this could be done without terrific instructors. They are incredibly supportive of their students, usually working extra hours and giving up evenings and weekends to prepare students prepared for competitions and, always cheering their efforts.

SkillsUSA annually involves more than 300,000 students and advisors organized in more than 18,000 sections and 52 state and territorial associations. This nonprofit partnership of students, instructors and industry is the tech future of our nation, and in my opinion, our future looks very bright. 

Just like a vacation away from work, I’ve returned from SkillsUSA charged up and ready to do all I can to help even more students reach their IT potential.

Wendy Edwards of TestOut and TestOut CEAbout the AuthorWendy Edwards started out as a Sales Assistant with TestOut Corporation more than seven years ago. Two years ago, her excellent customer service earned her a spot on the coveted K-12 Accounts Sales Team. While raising three children, Wendy received a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Brigham Young University. Her passion is running — anywhere from 5Ks to marathons, but her favorite is the relay race. She is also an awe-inspiring four-time winner of TestOut’s Halloween Costume Contest, with the following awards: Overall, Funniest, Scariest, and Spooktacular Spirits.


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