High school junior Rhett Fields was one of the best young cabinet makers in the United States and had recently placed fourth in SkillsUSA, a big-deal national trade skills competition sponsored by 3M.
Rhett was excited to compete the following year in a new category – diesel mechanics – and was set to mentor his younger friend Ethan Harrison in the cabinet-making category.
When 17-year-old Rhett died in a dirt bike accident three years ago, Ethan was left without his friend and mentor. "It was a very hard time for me," Ethan says. "But after he died, there was a whole new depth of meaning around the competition. It really pushed me."
Ethan, a Blackfoot, Idaho, native, honored his friend at the 2017 event by wearing a grey t-shirt that had Rhett's initials, RJF, stamped in black letters on his shoulder. He took home silver in 2017, and in 2018 competed again, winning a head-to-head, 10-hour competition and a spot on the WorldSkills USA team that will compete internationally in Kazan, Russia, this August.
Ethan is one of 22 WorldSkills USA team members who will compete in Russia this summer in categories like auto body repair, cyber security, mechanical engineering, web design, welding and more. As the global sponsor of the WorldSkills USA team, 3M was thrilled to bring the entire team to 3M's headquarters in St. Paul, Minn., to help them prepare for the international competition, connect them with like-minded 3M employees and celebrate their commitment to represent the U.S. overseas.
"3M and WorldSkills USA share a commitment to addressing the shortage of qualified skilled workers across many industries," said Mojdeh Poul, executive vice president of 3M's Safety and Graphics Business Group. "As a global, science-based company, we recognize that STEM skills are the foundation for many trades. This sponsorship is about inspiring the next generation of skilled workers and supporting their efforts in Kazan."
For Ethan, that support is truly felt and appreciated.
"It's been great to see the real-life support we have from 3M," he says of his time on campus. "They really went the extra mile for us this week. I have a much better understanding of what I need to do to prepare, and that can make the difference."
At the 2019 WorldSkills International competition in August, the 3M logo will be front and center on signage, brochures and the official USA team jackets. For Ethan, the 3M logo will share space with another set of important letters. When he competes, he plans to wear the same t-shirt with the 'RJF' initials that he wore at the U.S. event. That t-shirt, in addition to the 3M-branded team jacket, feels like a good combination to Ethan.
"3M is more than just a logo, it's made up of actual people who care about me and this team. It feels like we are all in this together."
We are excited to cheer on Ethan and the rest of the team as they prepare for the big event this summer. Learn more about the upcoming WorldSkills competition here.