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Students match skills in competition

April 02, 2006|By ROBERT SNYDER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va.

Measure twice, cut once.

That was the rule for the 31 students who competed in the carpentry skills contest Saturday at the James Rumsey Technical Institute near Hedgesville as part of the 2006 West Virginia Skills USA Leadership and Skills Conference.

Bedecked in hard hats, goggles and tool belts, the contestants were given five hours and all of the materials needed to construct a small platform with stairs and railing. The materials, which were donated by a number of area builders and building supply companies, were just enough for the contestants to complete their assignment, said Jesse Tasker, the contest's lead judge and the head of the carpentry program at Rumsey.

"If they don't think ahead a little bit, they could be in trouble," said Tasker, adding the students are judged on a number of points, including the quality and accuracy of their work, the speed with which it's completed, how they use their tools and safety.

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More than 400 students from about 50 technical schools statewide gathered at the school to compete in 35 events, Rumsey Director Vicki Jenkins said.

"For us, it's nice because we have students from six different high schools," Jenkins said. "They have the opportunity to meet one another and form friendships, but the benefit is to develop leadership skills and have a taste of what it's like in their industry."

Making contacts in their fields is another advantage of competing at the conference, state Director Keith James said.

James said the competitions, which include preparatory skills demonstrations as well as written tests, are designed to test more than just the candidate's skill in a particular assignment.

"You have to have a mind that goes with (the task). You have to be occupationally literate," James said. "From there, it is a steppingstone to build them to be more skilled and to make the right career path for themselves."

Competition events at the all-day conference included advertising design, architectural drafting, collision repair, cosmetology, precision machining, wiring, welding, computer maintenance and culinary arts.

Brittany Baker, 18, of Keyser, W.Va. was one of 10 students who competed in the culinary arts competition. With three hours to do it, she prepared a meal that included a fruit salad and chicken breast sauted with peppers.

The goal of the competition was to prepare a meal as it would be presented in a restaurant, said National Conservation Training Center Executive Chef Mike Toth, who served as a judge in the contest.

"We're looking for more of a demonstration of skills rather than how you can follow a recipe," Toth said.

That was the challenging part for Baker, who said that she has no plans to become a chef, but enjoys cooking.

"It's interesting to take all the parts and put them together into something that looks and tastes good," she said.

First-place winners in all categories will advance to compete in June at the national competition in Kansas City, Mo., James said.

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