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Future contractors show off their skills

January 27, 2001

Future contractors show off their skills



By JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer


Brett Brown spent minutes getting the balance just right on the door frame before nailing it into the miniature wall frame.

While Brown, 19, of Frederick, Md., has done this type of work on his own before, he still found Saturday's local Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. Skills Olympics "challenging."

"We learn a lot," said Brown, who finished first in the carpentry division in the contest held at Washington County Technical High School.

Brown was one of about 30 students participating in the Skills Olympics, a required event for students in their final year of the four-year apprenticeship program.

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Students work for contractors during the day and attend night classes twice a week, said Joan Warner, executive director for ABC's Cumberland Valley Chapter.

The students competing in Saturday's individual competitions were from Washington, Frederick, Allegany and Garrett counties in Maryland, Franklin and Adams counties in Pennsylvania and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

"These students get a chance to show their employers or future employers the skills they've acquired in their four-year program," said Jim Rock, chairman of the apprenticeship committee.

While most of the students already have jobs, the skills competition can help others land jobs, said Rock, owner of GRC General Contractor Inc. in Zullinger, Pa.

Rock also hopes the competition shows high school students there are good paying, year-round, full-time jobs with opportunities to advance beyond being tradespeople.

With a shortage of qualified tradespeople, there are jobs out there for students willing to pursue the training, Rock said.

As Brown was building his wall frame, other students were competing in plumbing, electrical and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) contests.

"It's definitely a learning experience," said Marvin Lescalleet, 32, of Boonsboro. "You get exposed to different things."

Merle Vaughn, 24, of Hagerstown, said the competition helps students learn things they might not do every day on the job.

"Plus the competition is fun" because participants are competing against their friends, said Clint Schiffhauer, 29, of Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

In the HVAC competition, Lescalleet, Vaughn and Schiffhauer did a brazing test, dismantled and reassembled an oil burner, did troubleshooting on an air conditioning compressor and figured out how to fix a simulated malfunction.

Electrical students had to mount a panel and meter, wire a motor starter with a start/stop switch and install a light outlet controlled at three different locations.

Plumbing students had to do a rough-in for a bathroom with a toilet, urinal, sink and drinking fountain.

Plumbing student C.J. Getson, 25, of Deer Park, Md., said the contest is good for the future of plumbing because it gives students something to look forward to and educates the public about their skills.

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