2023 Pitch for the Skilled Trades Winners


The 2023 Annual Conference of the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) in Nashville, TN, witnessed an exciting and competitive Pitch for the Skilled Trades event. Sponsored by the Philip E. and Carole R. Ratcliffe Foundation, this year's competition featured a diverse array of program topics, ranging from 3D Printed homes to Electrical Vehicle (EV) training, certified Dog Grooming, the creation of a Mobile Trades Academy, Cybersecurity Professionals, and the Vanguard Gobot robot for on and off-campus courses. Out of 22 initial applicants, six winning colleges emerged victorious, competing for a share of the $150,000 prize money.

Congratulations to the Winners:

Vance-Granville Community College (NC) - "Vanguard Gobot"

  • Lead: Stephanie Tolbert
  • Prize: $40,000

Ivy Tech Community College will add a state-of-the-art virtual training ground to its cybersecurity program by creating a Cyber Range. Students will respond to a variety of real-life threats in a safe environment and learn to thwart attacks in real-time. The Cyber Range will allow students to upskill and prepare for certifications, as well as collaborate with each other and with community professionals. Ivy Tech's Cyber Range will use internal and external partners to provide cyber range training around southern Indiana.

Ivy Tech Community College (IN) - "Ivy Tech Cyber Range: Train at the Speed of Life"

  • Lead: Sueann Graham
  • Prize: $40,000

Ivy Tech Community College is leading the way in cybersecurity education with its "Ivy Tech Cyber Range" project. Providing a safe and realistic learning environment, this initiative allows students to train on real-world threats and scenarios in real-time. The Ivy Tech Cyber Range Initiative aims to upskill students, prepare them for certifications, and respond to a variety of threats while building networks through collaboration.

Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (NC) - "Trailblazer Mobile Trades Academy"

Lead: Carol Faust and Holly Kyseth

Prize: $28,000

The Trailblazer Mobile Trades Academy is an educational initiative designed to address the growing skills gap in skilled trades industries. This project aims to empower individuals in our community by providing accessible, hands-on training in essential trades such as construction, electrical work, and plumbing, in addition to traditional blacksmithing training for our more artistic and entrepreneurial students. Our mobile lab will bring comprehensive trade education directly to underserved populations, creating a pathway to sustainable employment and economic empowerment.

Santa Fe College (FL) - "Ahead of The Pack"

  • Lead: Trenton Hightower
  • Prize: $25,000

Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida will be offering the first AKC-endorsed course for Dog Grooming in the United States. Dog Grooming Specialist jobs are on the rise with over 25 available positions listed within a 50-mile radius of Santa Fe College. We are offering this course, providing public support to the SPCA, and building a model of classroom planning that will generate revenue to offer future students financial aid and can support paid internships for current students. During COVID, the number of dog owners increased significantly, as well as the preference for non-shedding dogs. This has created a need for more Dog Groomers, with the pay being up to $20 and $22 per hour. According to a survey by Market Spin, 75% of individuals who complete this course will start their own business and charge $65 to $85 per hour to their clients.

Carroll Community College (MD) - "Back to the Future: Stackable EV Education Pathways"

  • Lead: Amy Yingling
  • Prize: $12,000

By 2025, 54 million EVs are expected on the road, highlighting a crucial challenge: a shortage of skilled technicians for Advanced Driving Assistance Systems (ADAS) repair. Carroll Community College's Regional EV Repair and Maintenance Program enables students to achieve certification through the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). PFTT provided funding to purchase ADAS simulator equipment, a critical component for delivering the ASE L4 curriculum. Our vision encompasses stackable EV Educational Pathways by providing on-ramps for both new and incumbent workers to seamlessly progress in their careers and for after-market repair centers to remain competitive.

Northwestern Michigan College (MI) - "Training the Next Generation of Construction Trade Leaders"

  • Leads: Willard “Will” Kitchen, Carolyn Andrews, and Al Everett
  • Prize: $5,000

We represent Northwestern Michigan College's Innovation Team, and we aim to equip construction technology students with advanced technology to overcome industry challenges. Our proposal is to utilize the latest technologies to build homes more efficiently, with smaller crews than the industry standard, and at a faster pace, ultimately addressing labor shortages and the housing crisis. Our plan includes a feasibility study for 3D printing technology, an innovation mindset credential, and an updated curriculum for construction trades students. Our goal is to provide students with specialized technical skills, innovative problem-solving techniques, and leadership and entrepreneurship skills to succeed in the job market. Our community is excited about establishing the first 3D-printed home-building curriculum in Northern Michigan, which will include internship opportunities and net-zero energy solutions.