Recruiting the Next Generation of Skilled Tradespeople | Work Done Right with Eric Hill

On this episode of the Work Done Right podcast, Eric Hill joins to discuss all things technical education in the U.S. He explains why college wasn’t the right choice for him, how SkillsUSA Competitions are a great opportunity to recruit skilled tradespeople, and why employers should take advantage of SkillsUSA’s partnership with the Department of Labor to recruit younger workers

About Eric 


Eric Hill is the Executive Director of SkillsUSA, Illinois, an organization dedicated to advancing career and technical education in America. SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. Their mission is to empower its members to become world-class workers, leaders and responsible American citizens. 


In addition to his work with SkillsUSA, Eric is also a serial entrepreneur and an active member in his community. He is passionate about empowering and investing in the future of our youth. 

Top 3 Episode Takeaways 

Eric provides a wealth of information on technical education, recruiting skilled tradespeople, and so much more. Here are the top three takeaways from his conversation with Wes: 

  1. SkillsUSA Championships are a technical education competition that are held all over the country. Employers looking to recruit more skilled trade workers are encouraged to get involved for a great opportunity to build relationships with the talented next generation.

  2. While college is a great option, it’s not the only option. Students who are unsure of what they want to do should consider getting involved in the skilled trades. This provides a great stepping stone to build a career, and may even allow the student to obtain an employer-sponsored higher education.
  3. Companies looking to recruit more skilled trade workers should build strong relationships with local high schools in the communities of current and future projects. It may seem obvious, but in Eric’s experience, it’s a method that’s often overlooked. 

Episode Highlight 

Eric explains why Skills USA’s partnership with the Department of Labor can be a gamechanger for employers: 

“The registered apprenticeship program is an incredible opportunity, specifically around youth.  

What that program allows is employers can hire students as young as 16 years of age. It lowers the child labor requirements that outline what are considered high risk industries and allow for students to still be able to be working and developing those skill sets under the age of 18.  

It also makes it illegal for insurance companies to not insure or to raise the workman’s compensation rate on those particular students. The reason for that is because the Department of Labor is not just looking at what the student is getting from the employer, but also what they call related technical instruction.  

So they’re validating that the student is learning these skill sets in the classroom and also getting to experience them on a job site. So it’s really game changing for some employers.” 

Episode Transcript  

Wes Edmiston: 

Well, hey, so let’s go ahead and dive right in. Can you explain a little bit about what Skills USA is? I assume that many people have never heard of it. I feel like it’s kind of the industry’s best kept secret.  

So could you just kind of lay out what the purpose of the organization is and what you all’s mission is?  

Eric Hill: 

Yeah. So, Skills USA, we’re a nationwide student organization, and our number one priority is to help prepare the next generation of skilled workers.  

Another way of saying it is we want to make a lot of really successful, tax paying citizens. Really? So we do that by partnering with high schools all across the country, actually high schools, colleges, and even some middle schools, and then connecting them with career opportunities in anything you could imagine, whether that’s commercial baking, whether that’s welding, whether that’s public safety, automotive, construction, any career field that falls into that technical skill set, really the thought process of, like, the micro, the dirty jobs, any of those skill sets.  

We’re trying to prepare students to enter that workforce. Because what we see right now is we have a lot of students with no path as they’re leaving high school. And so Skills USA is trying to align them not only to a career path, but also to a company and help again become productive citizens.  

Wes Edmiston: 

One thing that gets brought up a lot when talking about anything trades related is the fact that really for folks that are coming out of high school or looking for what their path is going to be, maybe after high school, they’re really pushed toward college or nothing.  

And there’s not a lot of organizations out there that do things like what Skills is doing, and I absolutely commend them for the effort. That’s fantastic to hear that they’re doing this. Actually, on that note, are there any trends that you guys have been seeing with people maybe taking a shift back toward career and technical education or toward the trades and maybe away from just the standard you thou shalt go to college path?  

Eric Hill: 

Yeah, absolutely. So I think we’re finally forced into recognizing that we have a problem as a country. Right. If you’ve been in workforce development for any amount of time, we’ve known that the silver tsunami is coming and all of the we have a huge generation that’s about ready to retire and that’s going to leave voids in companies from mom and pop shops all the way up to Fortune 500 companies.  

But I think the other thing that we’ve now seen and that’s really kind of forced our hand is, yes, we’ve known that that trend was going to happen, but then COVID has had a really dramatic impact on our workforce as well and made it more of an immediate, like, oh my gosh, I need this now.  

I talk to employers. My primary job is really interacting on our employer side. I’ve got a great team that supports our schools, but every employer that talked to is talking about this need for workforce development and how can we find new pipelines of students?  

And really there’s a frustration, right? There’s a frustration on the employer side saying, gosh, there’s all these students graduating even in organizations like Skills USA from high school, but how do we connect them to our industry?  

And so. You talked about going to college and really there’s like three paths out of high school that are successful for students. You can go into a four year university. You can go or into a trade school or a two year university.  

You can go into the armed services or the military. And the third option is transitioning into employment. And really one of the things that we find that our students are struggling with is the first two options.  

They’re supposed report systems in place. There’s counselors at the colleges, there’s enrollment specialists. There’s a faculty at the college. Even at the military side, you have your recruiter and then you get your report date and it’s just a path.  

But for employment, you really kind of graduate and you’re just out in the open. And for a 17 or 18 year old, that can be a very scary thing. And so I think that’s why we see a lot of students that even are passionate about their careers maybe not taking that first step and going into a career that isn’t exactly what they want.  

So with Skills USA, we’re trying to connect them to those employers even before they graduate so that those students have a little more support of that third level transitioning out of high school.  

Wes Edmiston: 

You keep bringing it up, the work that you do with employers.  

Are there any incentives that employers have for being associated with an organization like Skills USA or bringing on maybe a former student or participant in Skills USA? Yeah, absolutely.  

Eric Hill: 

So one of our biggest events every year is our the our Skills USA Championships.  

And that is really like the state’s premier career and technical education competition. So we bring about 2500 students. It’s going to be this April, April 27 through the 29th at the Peoria Civic Center.  

And at the Civic Center, we will set up over 130 career and technical competitions. So these are employers will bring in tens of millions of dollars worth of equipment. We’ll have about 600 employers there to act as judges and these students are put through.  

Simulations of what it’s going to look like not only for the competition, but what is it going to look like if I go and become an entry level diesel technician. And not only are you working and showcasing your skills, but you’re doing that for employers that are looking to hire you so that’s as an employer, like, the value add from Skills USA is one you get to give back to your community and help and support and train the next generation of skilled workers.  

But then you also want to bring your HR team with you because these students are ready to be hired and jump right into your companies. And I think that’s one of the really incredible connections that Skills USA is making right now is as an employer, as employers are talking about, how can we hire students at local high schools?  

Like, we’re struggling to even hire out of colleges for our four year degree program required positions? How can we ever have the resources to go down to the high school level and make those same connections?  

It’s organizations like ours that are trying to absolutely help our employers do that. How can we help find these students, the career opportunities that exist or maybe even that employers don’t even know could exist?  

Right? So it’s helping employers understand that there’s this untapped pipeline of students, and just by partnering and helping us as a judge or a participant in some of our events, you get access to those pretty incredible students.  

And so a lot of our employers are seeing tons of benefits from that. I’m actually at a conference right now where we’re doing this from a conference center, and the conference is all around career technical educators coming together.  

And we had a business panel, and one of our panels was talking about our apprenticeship program that we have with one of our employers. And the employer was like, you know what? Honestly, we thought we’d he’d hire one or two students, see this program, he goes, 10% of my workforce is now an apprenticeship are apprentices.  

He’s like, this has completely changed the game for us. It’s a manufacturing company he’s hired. Welders painters. He’s got a couple of industrial machinists. He’s like, this has been a revolutionary opportunity for us.  

And he goes, and I’m just hiring students from my local high school. I just didn’t know how to connect with them. And thanks to our program, we were able to help him do that. So it’s pretty cool to hear them and get that feedback.  

Wes Edmiston: 

I just kind of go back a little bit on this. Eric, how did how did you get involved in Skills USA? Because, I mean, out of high school, which we’ve known each other since about that time, I wound up leaving, going down to Texas.  

I worked in the trades for Roundabout 15 years, and I never heard of Skills USA until last year. I saw you sharing a Facebook post meeting volunteers for the competition. So how did you get started into Skills USA? How did you even hear about this? And what is your background in all this?  

Eric Hill: 

Yeah, absolutely. So you mentioned it, right in the kind of the introduction, like, it’s the best kept secret, and you’re right, and really I hate the phrase, but it’s true, right?  

Not enough people know about what Skills USA is doing. So I was very fortunate. We went to the same high school. But one of the classes that I took was an IT-based class. And funny story to that, I actually got into that class because my track coach was the instructor for that class.  

So I really didn’t even know the class that I was signing up for. I just wanted to hang out with my track coach for an hour out of the day. But come to find out, the computer class was called Internetworking.  

It’s basically how getting all the computers around the world to talk to each other is the concept behind that class. And so even though I knew nothing about it at the time, I enrolled, and honestly, it became what I thought was going to be my forever industry.  

So I got involved in dual credit opportunities through that class, which then introduced me to Skills USA. So I was able able to compete in Internetworking. Cisco Network is one of the largest companies in the space, and I was fortunate enough to actually be a competitor, win at our state level and go to our national competition.  

And there I met one of the vice presidents of Cisco. One of my future employers at the Skills USA events. So the reason I got involved was, quite honestly, by accident, a complete accident. Just wanted to hang out with my track coach, but evolve that 15 years later.  

And really, I’ve seen the dramatic impact that it has to make on a student. Right. It doesn’t really matter how the student came into the organization, but it changed my life, not just from a technical standpoint, but also I was able to go through a leadership track within the organization where I was speaking to CEOs before I was old enough to rent a car on my own.  

And just having that experience and building all of those opportunities, I knew it was an organization that I wanted to be a part of forever. I’ll be honest. I didn’t think I would be the executive director.  

I thought I would just be one of those industry supporters for the rest of my life. But when the opportunity opened up to become the director and really just see the impact that it has every single day, it’s the most rewarding career choice that I think I’ve ever could have made.  

Wes Edmiston: 

So you went straight from a program. Did you end up finishing college?  

Eric Hill: 

No. Like I said, I met my employer through Skills USA. I remember I was working full time for them, but I would leave throughout the day to go to class, and I was driving to a class, and I’m like, Wait, what am I doing?  

I’m getting more experience working as an It administrator for a small start up company that’s doing really crazy, cool technology all across the world. I’m like, Why am I leaving to go to a speech class to get a degree in the job that I’m doing right now?  

So I actually actually dropped out of college. I literally did the like, it would have been a classic movie skit, right? No turn signal. Looked both ways. We’re all good. I’m. But it was that eye opening experience, right? And I think we’re there again, honestly, I think we’re there right now as a country where it’s like, even if you want to go to college, that’s great, but there are so many employers out there that will pay you to go to college, right?  

So start off in that entry level position right out of high school. When you don’t have debt, you don’t have all of the weight of the world on your shoulders yet get into that a career choice that you think you want to be a part of, even if it’s working as a welder, but you someday want to be an engineer.  

The company is going to pay for you to go get your engineering degree or go get that next step because they want to see you evolve. And that’s really the incredible thing that I think we’re seeing right now is it’s okay to not go to a four year university right out of high school.  

It’s okay to want to earn and make a good living, and there’s still that path to success, even if it’s not four year university right out of high school. And that’s really what I’m trying to preach to all of our members and try to give that to our employers to understand the value.  

And, yeah, we’re just seeing really great things happen. But my story happened that same way. I was like, no, I’m going back to the job that’s paying me and where I’m learning more in that job than I’ve ever learned a day in a classroom.  

Wes Edmiston: 

Hey, real quick, this is Wes. I just wanted to let you know that if you have an idea for an episode topic or a great guest suggestion, we would love to hear from you. Just send us an email at Now, back to the show.  

Now that’s a fantastic story. Honestly, you touched on something that I find to be really valuable also in that just because you start in a career or even just because you started in college or whatever it is that you started, it’s doesn’t mean that that has to be the trajectory that you follow for your entire, you know, for the rest of your career.  

Right. If you, if you enter into the trades or, or whatever it is, you can absolutely, you know, pursue other options somewhere along the way. Like I said in the introduction, you are a serial entrepreneur, which I think is an interesting way of looking at it also, not just in being able to start off as a welder and then finish off getting your degree.  

Actually, I was a piper and Welder, and I just finished my degree last year. Looking at getting an MBA now, but you’re never limited to the position of your job. Could you tell me a little bit more about your experience experience with that with advancing as a non-degree individual that became a director of It, and now you’re pursuing several different options.  

What is it like kind of going through that experience? And do you think that’s something that kids need to people entering the workforce need to keep consideration of?  

Eric Hill: 

Yeah, absolutely. So I’m glad I told you the story about college, because upon doing that u-turn, before I got back to work, I called my parents.  

I was still young. I needed to check in with them, and I was like, hey, fyi, this is my plan. I didn’t just do it overnight. It had been weighing on me. But my dad immediately said, that’s fine, Eric.  

He goes, but you’ve got to find a way to make some passive income in some other way, some other form. And him and my mom had just recently bought a rental house a couple of doors down from them, and they had one rental.  

And so he’s like, you really should consider maybe getting into real estate or just doing something so that you have a safety net. If you’re not going to have that four year degree to fall back on, make sure you have something to fall back on.  

And that was actually really great advice for my dad. So I started looking into some rental properties. I was still living with them. I didn’t own my own place yet, but I bought my first property and turned it into a rental property.  

And then actually, while we were while I was working on that project, I bought a second home and realized that I really enjoyed real estate. Now ask my dad. What he thinks about it. He would have said, Eric, I told you to buy a few rental properties.  

Well, we’re about ten years in now, and my business partner and I, we own quite a few rentals now. We’ve got a pretty large investment property firm in the Peak in Peoria area. And it’s funny, now my dad is stressed out that he thinks I’ve gone too far.  

But it was a newfound passion, right? It’s the ability to look at a deal and kind of evaluate a property, almost like as you’re balancing your checkbook every month, what can we spend?  

Where are we getting our income from? It’s learning that profit and loss balance sheet, something that I’ve never went to school for, but now suddenly I’m managing on a pretty decent size scale. So we talk about whether it’s Skills USA that prepares you for that, whether it’s college, whether it’s high school.  

I do think experimenting and maybe don’t go out and buy 300 rental homes, but experimenting into different markets is so healthy, especially a young adult, because it’s just teaching them new skill sets, even if it’s going and belonging to an organization that they’ve never belonged to before.  

Like just doing something outside the norm so that you’re not in that eight to five. Because we all get there, we all get burned out by things. But it’s those other pieces of my life that really just give me an avenue to kind of flare into and get excited about and kind of reenergized without just saying, I’m going to just go home and sit on the couch after work.  

There’s more to purpose and there’s more to your work when you have all the different irons in the fire. So I love doing that. In addition to that, I own another kind of really cool indoor golf simulator business called the Bunker.  

Wes knows about this because I talked about it all the way back in high school doing this, but I’m. Honestly, we had bought a piece of real estate and we had a restaurant in the front of it, and the back half was empty and it’s like, man, I’ve always wanted to have indoor simulators.  

And it was the middle of winter and I was calling one of the other local indoor golf places and they were booked out for the whole weekend. I was like, this is silly. Obviously if I want a golf, there’s other people that want to golf.  

So we ended up putting in three indoor simulators. It’s like a little bar hangout area. We serve just pizza, but all the drinks you could have, and it’s just a really cool spot to hang out. So again, I don’t work there day to day, but just the idea of building that out and bringing something cool to our community that our community can enjoy.  

And again, it’s just another piece of purpose and excitement that we get to have, that’s amazing. And I am seeing the trend of you just kind of go full steam into any one direction as soon as you dip your toes. 

Wes Edmiston: 

I remember, didn’t you pick up cross country whenever we were in high school? And then you started running every single place that you ever went? That was an obsession that I recall.  

Eric Hill: 

Yeah. I’m still trying to figure out what I’m running from, but I definitely dive into things.  

And if I’m going to do it, we’re going to go 100% into it. We’re not going to do anything halfway, that’s for sure.  

Wes Edmiston: 

Talking about the apprenticeship programs you all have now you guys have with Skills USA, a registered apprenticeship program through the Department of Labor.  

Can you tell me a bit more about that program?  

Eric Hill: 

Absolutely, and thanks for asking about that. So, again, going back to those championships that we offer. Right. So we’re all industry partners are putting all of these efforts and resources into these events, but they’re still not able to hire our students.  

Sometimes we hear about employers that are able to connect with a local high school and that they can maybe have one or two good employees come through that pipeline, but then. Maybe the teacher leaves, or maybe the employer leaves, and we see those internships or apprenticeships breaking down.  

The other big thing we hear from our employers is, well, we can’t hire them until they’re 18 years old. We can’t have someone welding until they’re 18 years old. That’s that’s our company policy. That’s our insurance.  

So we did a lot of research and actually piggy-backed a lot of the research that John Deere had done. And we found that the registered apprenticeship program is an incredible opportunity, specifically around youth.  

And so what that program allows is employers can hire students as young as 16 years of age. It lowers the child labor requirements that outline what are considered high risk industries and allow for students to still be able to be working and developing those skill sets under the age of 18.  

It also makes it illegal for insurance companies to not insure or to raise the workman’s compensation rate on those particular students. And the reason for that is because the department of labor is not just looking at what the student is getting from the employer, but also what they call related technical instruction.  

So they’re validating that the student is learning these skill sets in the classroom and also getting to experience them on a job site. So it’s really game changing for some employers. Again, like the employer that I was talking about earlier, that has now a good percentage of their workforce as apprentices.  

It was an untapped pipeline that they never had access to. And so with the registered apprenticeship program, now what we’re doing is we realize, well, there’s still some red tape, right? You’re interacting with the government.  

There are some paperwork work that goes with it. So how can we, as skills USA, simplify that process? And so we now act as what’s called an intermediary. So instead of making companies go out and register with the department of labor themselves, they just register under our umbrella.  

We do all the tracking, all the accountability to the Us. Department of labor. And the employer really just focuses on what they’re doing best and that’s training and developing their workforce. And then we partner with our high school programs to validate and to learn that related technical instruction piece.  

So it’s been a really cool opportunity. And then I’m going to make a selfless plug for the program, right? As an employer, there’s no cost for it. We don’t charge our employers anything. We help with the recruiting.  

We help them to develop and build what this young apprenticeship or young track will look like within their company. We help them through all of that at no cost. So it’s an incredible opportunity for our employers and an even better opportunity for our students.  

Because at this point, we have just over 200 students in an apprenticeship opportunity right now. And we’re hoping that grows to 300 or 400 by the end of this year, honestly.  

Wes Edmiston: 

So how can how can high schools or maybe community colleges, whomever they are, find Skills USA?  

How can they partner with Skills USA? What resources are available to them to help grow their CTE programs?  

Eric Hill: 

So we’re really looking at Skills USA in kind of two tracks now. So we have the traditional leadership and the technical competitions and all of the greatness that goes with that.  

So tons of resources on our website on how you can join. Honestly, the cost to participate as a school is very minimal. We want to get as many students that hands-on technical experience. So tons of resources on our website there.  

But then now as we look at the registered apprenticeship program and that’s really being more of like an employer centric program, it’s how can we help our employers come into Skills USA and hire students that are a part of our Skills USA programming or here in the state of Illinois?  

So for even some of our schools that don’t actively participate day in and day out with Skills USA, we still can partner with them on the registered apprenticeship side. So there’s an opportunity. What happens when a new employer comes to us and they’re like, hey, we want to have welding students?  

Well, our first stop is at every school in that 30 miles radius that offers welding. That’s part of skills, USA. And then step number two is we have a list of every school in the state of Illinois that teaches welding, period.  

So even if they’re not a part of Skills USA, we’re reaching out to them and calling them. So we’re seeing Skills USA growing more organically through that. But I would love to chat with any contact you have that’s a principal.  

And really just any school would love for them to reach out to us. We do have a great team that helps onboard new schools and kind of walk them through the process. I mentioned we’re at a conference today.  

We actually did a special track just for Skills USA advisors, or soon to be advisors. And so there’s lots of resources out there that we can help them and make them successful in doing that. So would love to talk with them if they reach out.  

Wes Edmiston: 

You touched on earlier the competition that’s coming up right there’s. The state competition, I believe it’s regional competition, state competitions, and then the National Skills USA competition. Whenever I saw this last year, volunteered through the organization, I was just blown away at everything that you all have going on in that single competition.  

It’s incredible. You walk through this building we were at the Civic Center last year, and there are all these big diesel semi trucks and people fabricating cabinets and the hair cutting situation, the kitchen that was right.  

It’s anything and everything you could possibly imagine going on all under one roof. Could you tell people how it is that they can maybe get involved with volunteering with some of these programs that you have through Skills USA and what else that they can do in order to support this mission?  

Eric Hill: 

Yeah, absolutely. So I think our claim to fame, right, the silver bullet that we have going for us right now is that. Every one of those competitions that you mentioned are all judged and run by volunteers that are in the industry, right?  

Our educators are great, but we don’t ask our educators to come and judge these events. We want our students to hear from industry. We want them to see industry. We want them to know that industry knows that they’re there and that they want to help and hire them.  

So if you want to get involved and join us, we actually have a sign up link on our website site to volunteer as a day of judge. Basically, you tell us your background and we’ll get you connected with a technical committee.  

So every one of our competitions are run by a technical committee, and the technical chair is our main point of contact for that competition. wes, you’re on the welding. Welding? Fabrication technical committee right now.  

And so they meet throughout the year. They coordinate. How do we get all this equipment here? Some of it’s a lot of work for these folks. I mean, for welding, for example, we’re just taking a square area of concrete and setting up a welding fabrication lab.  

So it takes a lot of resources to make that all happen. But any company that wants to get involved or any individual that wants to get involved, you can sign up as a day of volunteer. Because not only do we have technical competitions, but we have leadership competitions as well, right?  

One of our competitions is just called Job Interview. So it’s sitting there, listening to students go through an interview and evaluating them on the success of their interview. So we have leadership competitions.  

We also have quiz bowl style competitions. So that’s just like jeopardy style questions where you buzz in and answer questions. So it’s just a lot of opportunities for students. It really is not part of this question at all.  

But I’m flashing back to to one of the sessions I was just did and one of the teachers, it was teachers talking about, why do they participate in Skills USA? And she goes, Honestly, everything is great with the championships.  

She goes, but my kids. They’ve never been to a restaurant and ordered a steak. She goes, we go to Golden corral every year, and our kids show up there and they don’t know how to order their steak because they’ve never bought steak before.  

They’ve never stayed in a hotel. So even just coming to this event and being able to have the overnight and to see students from other schools, it’s really an incredible thing to see happen. And then just real quickly on our structure, so students compete at a local school level, then they go to a regional level to compete, and then our state level events, obviously, we can’t have every student competing.  

So some of our contests are limited by space and size, but then the number one student in every division gets to go on to our national competition in our national competitions in Atlanta, Georgia, this year, and they represent the entire state of Illinois.  

So last year we had eleven no, I’m sorry, we had 14 national medalists. So 14 students placed 1st, 2nd, or third in the nation, which is absolutely incredible. But at every single level, those students are getting scholarships, they’re getting prizes for the winner of our welding competition will get a welder from the state conference.  

Wes Edmiston: 

I mean, incredible opportunities for students as they progress through that conference. No, that is great. Would you mind again recapping when and where can people attend and volunteer for the Illinois state competition?  

Eric Hill: 

Yeah. So it’s April 27 through the 29th this year at Peoria Civic Center. The main day of competition is that Friday, April 28. You can go to our website,, and one of the scrolling options is the day of volunteer forum.  

So fill that out and we’ll reach out to you and kind of chat about where you’ll fit in with our teams, but would love to have you come and support it. There’s also an opportunity to sign up to get a tour, a guided tour, so we’re.  

We’ll bring about 4000 people into the convention center in addition to the competitors, and we’ll take them on tours and kind of show them what all Skills USA has to offer. So if that’s something else you’re interested in, there’s a form to sign up for that.  

We’d be happy to give you a tour as well. I am absolutely looking forward to it. It is on my calendar and I was blown away by the contestants last year. Phenomenal work. There were people that said that I would honestly hire right on the spot.  

Wes Edmiston: 

They were just fantastic craftsmen. Craftsmen and women, actually. So I’m again, like I said, really looking forward to the competition. I imagine each state has their own branch chapter. What can people do within their own states in order to get connected with Skills USA locally?  

Eric Hill: 

Yeah, absolutely. So obviously our team here in Illinois is just focused on the state of Illinois. But we are a nationwide organization, so any company that wants to get involved, I have counterparts all across the state.  

Some states, we even have counterparts that do post secondary versus secondary. But honestly, the best way to get involved with Skills USA if you’re outside of the state of Illinois, is to go to and there’s a connect with your local director.  

And that’s a whole directory on how you can reach out to the local teams in each of the states. But what we’re doing here in Illinois is great, but these same opportunities are happening all across the country.  

So no matter what state you’re in, there’s a huge opportunity to connect with students, to volunteer, to judge, to help. So yeah, definitely reach out to for that.  

Wes Edmiston: 

You always do a great job with recruiting students in order to gain access into some of these apprenticeship programs.  

And you’ve said yourself that you even have a company that 10% of their workforce now is just Skills USA apprentices. What can companies learn from the recruitment efforts that you all are doing with Skills in order to aid in their own recruitment efforts?  

Eric Hill: 

So it seems so obvious that a major employer in a town would go and talk to the major high school in that town, but that’s just not the case. Or even if they are, they’re not thinking about it from a, how can this benefit me as the employer?  

They’re thinking about, I want to give back to my high school, so maybe I’m going to give money to the basketball program. And that’s wonderful and that’s great, but they’re forgetting that that’s also an untapped talent pool.  

By coming into Skills USA, we help smooth that connection a little bit and make that employer realize that it’s my own local version of LinkedIn happening right here in my community, and it’s eye opening.  

Every time we see that connection happen, we’ve got to humble ourselves and remind ourselves, like, we need to start what do they say? The KISS method, right? Keep it simple, stupid. You’ve got to just start really basic and just say, hey, have you thought about recruiting from your local high school?  

And let’s talk about that. Let’s make that happen. So those conversations have actually been super beneficial to our employers, and again, we want to help them build these programs with them. It’s not them on their own.  

So we’d love to be involved in any way that we can help.  

Rapid Fire Questions 

Wes Edmiston: 

What song do you listen to whenever you need to get amped up and motivated?  

Eric Hill: 

The one that just popped in my head is Kelly Clarkson’s Champions.  

Wes Edmiston: 

Where’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to?  

Eric Hill: 

The Pacific Northwest. Like the Oregon and Washington areas.  

Wes Edmiston: 

Cats or dogs?  

Eric Hill: 


Wes Edmiston: 

What’s one word that best describes you?  

Eric Hill: 


Wes Edmiston: 

What is your favorite quote?  

Eric Hill: 

Think big, start small, act fast.  

Wes Edmiston:  

But what is your dream job?  

Eric Hill: 

I think I’m doing it right now. I get to talk about 130 different industries. I get to interact with students. I get to interact with employers somedays. 

We’re dreaming big. I think I’m doing my dream job right now. I think this is it.  


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