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NE State’s Austin Cox named Tenn. SkillsUSA president

Bob Carpenter, Community Contributor • Dec 25, 2017 at 9:30 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Northeast State Community College freshman Austin Cox was elected president of the Tennessee SkillsUSA Postsecondary Association Dec. 8, making him the first community college student to hold a statewide office.

“This is a great honor and a great opportunity for me,” Cox said. “I’m ready to make a difference and push for skills and trades as a career path that students can be proud of and be rewarded for their efforts.”

Postsecondary SkillsUSA Tennessee has more 11,000 student and professional members. They participate in annual activities including leadership training, community service, and skills competitions.

It takes a village, or in this case a team

Cox, who is also president of the College’s SkillsUSA chapter, jumped into the statewide election less than a month ago. With the support his family, his Northeast State SkillsUSA officer team, and his advisor, Nichole Manz-Young, Cox set about preparing speeches and honing his interview skills for the organization’s annual Legislative and Leadership Conference, which is held each November in Nashville.

“If it weren’t for my team members, I wouldn’t be a state officer,” Cox said. “They helped me campaign and supported me all the way.”

Cox’s efforts paid off, and he was elected as one of seven students to serve on the 2017-18 state officer team. However, he still faced another round of interviews and speeches on Dec. 8. State SkillsUSA administrators ultimately decide which office a student will hold.

“It’s been a great journey, and I’m proud to represent the state of Tennessee and Northeast State,” Cox said.

Cox and his state team represent 27 Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology and 13 community colleges across the state. The team will help govern and promote the state organization based SkillsUSA's core values: integrity, responsibility, citizenship, service and respect.

Who is Cox, and how has SkillsUSA affected him?

Cox, a graduate of Science Hill High School in Johnson City, was involved in SkillsUSA all four years of high school. His interest in the organization accelerated during his junior year when he attended the SkillsUSA state competition in Chattanooga as part of a four-person carpentry team.

“Going to that competition opened my eyes about SkillsUSA,” Cox said. “Seeing thousands of kids who love hands-on work really had an effect on me.”

Cox recently put his carpentry skills to work for the Appalachian Service Project, helping to build homes in Bristol and fire-ravaged Gatlinburg.

“The relative of a 90-year-old man we were building a house for told me ‘If it wasn’t for guys like you we wouldn’t have hope in this world,’” Cox said. “That made me see the importance of building things, designing things, and fixing things — that’s what SkillsUSA pushes.”

A change in plans

Cox said SkillsUSA also caused a change in his college plans. A noted high school athlete, he turned down several football scholarships at four-year schools to pursue a degree at Northeast State. Currently, he’s interested in Industrial Technology and fields in Mechanical, Machine Tool and HVAC technology.

“SkillsUSA changed my whole focus,” Cox said.

While his local and state SkillsUSA duties will occupy much of his time, Cox said his priority is recruitment for the organization. He said he wants to sign up 500 students at Northeast State to participate in SkillsUSA as well as travel to high schools spreading the word about SkillsUSA.

“I’m really happy for this opportunity,” Cox said. “SkillsUSA is a big-time organization, but many people don’t know that. I want people, especially young people, to know it can give them the skills and training that will get them jobs. That’s what motivates me to get the word out.”

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