HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. — More than 600 students from 28 West Virginia technical high schools used their skills to compete against each other Friday and Saturday at the 42nd annual West Virginia SkillsUSA Conference at James Rumsey Technical Institute.
The students competed against each other in job training programs including carpentry, welding, auto mechanics, culinary arts, commercial baking, criminal justice, firefighting, diesel repair, job interviewing, speaking, aesthetics, job interviewing and leadership skills.
First-place winners will compete in the national competition in June in Kansas City, Mo., Rumsey Principal Vicki Jenkins said.
Last year, 36 Rumsey students won gold, silver and bronze medals, including 15 first-place winners who competed in the national event, she said.
Tri-State-area businesses and industries contributed about $50,000 worth of materials, supplies and prizes as well as providing the more than 150 judges for the contests. Several area colleges and universities also assisted in the program.
Throughout the day, judges monitored teams and individual students as they competed in their respective disciplines.
In the carpentry shop, 23 students were given a blueprint to follow to build a model that included steps, a wall, floor system and a window. They had five hours to complete the project.
In another room, students were applying their skills building a roughed-in plumbing system.
Tessa Rahilly and Kayla Butts, both Rumsey students, built their version of a bulletin board promoting their school. The board was ringed by their own on-campus photographs of students in different courses including auto mechanics, welding, criminal justice, robotics and surgical technology. The center of the bulletin board was graced with drawings of two students wearing red blazers, the official “uniform” of the weekend competition.
Lee W. Badger at Anvil Works in Hedgesville judged 11 welding students who designed and fabricated artworks for the weekend competition.
Badger said he was fortunate that he had only to judge the works by number and not by the students’ names since all were high quality. He said he judged the technology of each exhibit, kinds of metals used and how they were incorporated, looked for good clean welds, design and composition plus the technology that went into each piece.
“All of these kids have a good future,” he said.
Jon McDaniels, 18, a junior at the Fred Eberle Technical Center in Upshur County, W.Va., fabricated a forest scene with a cabin and bridge over a stream and trees.
Tanner Butcher, 17, a senior at Putnam Career and Technical Center in Eleanor, W.Va., created a natural setting on one side, the other the same scene showing the effects of the hand of man. The sides were separated by a hillside lined with fir trees.
Dillon Swisher, 17, of Monongalia Technical Center, produced an eagle flying off with a fish in its talons. It was so detailed that some of it required the use of a computer, he said.
McDaniels said he plans to improve his skills with advanced education and training to qualify him for work in the offshore welding field.
Butcher plans a similar career, but wants to qualify as an underwater welder, a dangerous job that can pay as much as $300 an hour.
Swisher said he plans to use his skills as a boiler maker or work in the coal mines.
Saturday’s activities ended at nearby Hedgesville High School with an awards ceremony, Jenkins said.