South Tech’s Amanda Ohlau, an independent and hard-working Law Enforcement senior, has earned the honor of serving as this year’s Missouri SkillsUSA President. The election required a great deal of study, campaigning, and challenging moments but Ohlau kept plowing through each task with her goals in mind. Although she has known real adversity, she also has the skills and confidence required to conquer it.
Ohlau was born in Russia and spent the first three years of her life in an orphanage. She experienced “lots of trauma” there and said, “I had to raise myself, take care of myself,” in conditions that were often harsh. She credits her family and her experiences in school with teaching her how to trust and embrace depending on others. “I could not have achieved becoming president without the help of my South Tech team,” she said, evidence of how deeply she believes these tenants are the foundation of her success within the SkillsUSA organization.
“Being a state officer is extremely challenging,” says SkillsUSA co-sponsor Sally Difani. While Ohlau credits Difani and her instructor, Sue Gibbons, with encouraging her to aim for the presidential office and supporting her along the way, they both clearly feel she is beyond deserving of the honor. “Not all students are comfortable stepping into such a demanding leadership role, but Amanda was willing and she has thrived. She has honestly conducted herself capably and professionally in every situation with which she has been presented,” said Difani.
Ohlau has also excelled in her Law Enforcement major at South Tech. The Rockwood Summit senior is her class Lieutenant, the highest rank achievable and awarded to her by a 5-member election board including her principal and an advising police officer. “It was clear from the first day of school that Amanda was a leader,” said Ohlau’s instructor Sue Gibbons. “Amanda’s willingness to help others, her dedication and commitment to this program and constant effort to challenge herself is almost beyond words. Amanda is an outstanding leader and teammate to her fellow students,” Gibbons said.
Preparing for the campaign to become president required Ohlau to memorize a significant amount of information about SkillsUSA, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of America’s skilled workforce through a structured program of citizenship, leadership, employability, technical and professional skills training. She wrote and shared several speeches about the “skills gap”, a term used to describe the rapidly diminishing number of workers who are prepared to fill the many jobs being vacated through retirements or generated due to technological advancements. Recent studies about the skills gap indicate more shortages of workers in many careers such as nursing, construction work, oilfield work, automotive technicians, industrial technicians, computer network support specialists, and web developers, resulting in slower growth for American businesses and overall economic growth. Ohlau learned to align solving the skills gap with the critical continuation of Perkins funding for career and technical centers and high schools like South Tech in her presentations. SkillsUSA partners learning this information with soft skills and leadership training, which Ohlau will gain through attendance at a variety of events throughout the school year. Later this month she will attend the Washington Leadership Training Institute in Washington, D.C., during which she will meet with elected officials to discuss the importance of their support for career and technical training for young people. She is also “looking forward to meeting all of my fellow state officers” and collaborating with them at this event.
Ohlau plans to either join the Marine Corps after graduation as an MP or begin college to study criminal justice and communications. Both will prepare her for attending the police academy when she turns 21 to realize her dream of becoming an officer. “She has an amazing future ahead of her,” Difani said. South Tech is proud to stand behind Ohlau, our second SkillsUSA state president, and looks forward to witnessing her many accomplishments.