Leaders of the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA) celebrated in 1973 when President Nixon named the organization to select contestants and represent the United States in the International Youth Skill Olympics. But costs of the selection process proved high and began to impact other important VICA programs. The organization faced a chouce: either drop the international proram, or build additional public awareness and financial support. The solution was to make the skills trials part of major industrial association annual meetings.
VICA was formed in 1965 at the suggestion of the U.S. Department of Education, and labor and state vocational education leaders. The founders wanted an organization that would raise the standards of vocational curriculum, provide national recognition for achievements of vocational students, and enhance vocational programs with leadership, citizenship and character development programs.
Today, the Leesburg, VA-based organization has more than 14,000 local chapters with more than 265,000 members. It sponsors training in nearly 100 skilled occupations ranging from advertising design, industrial electronics and brick masonry to robotic work cell technology, commercial baking and consumer electronics. VICA also conducts an annual National Leadership Conference, the United States Skill Olympics (USSO), a professional development program and an employment network.
Each year, more than 3,000 USSO finalists, each a gold medal winner at the statewide level, compete nationally in one of 44 skill contests at the USSO. "These grueling contests, designed and …