A select group of local students are ready for the workforce – and soon everyone will know it. Seven Centralia High School students earned Gold at this year’s state SkillsUSA competitions and qualified for nationals in Louisville, Kentucky.
SkillsUSA is a career and technical competition. Vocational and Construction Teacher Mitch Smith notes the value of competition for kids’ self-esteem. “They see where they stack up and compare to kids, first in the region and the state and now nationals. They gain confidence when they see kids at Centralia High School are as good as or better than kids from all over.”
Inchantra Armitage – Masonry
Junior Inchantra Armitage is competing at nationals in masonry. The competition will feature a written test, creating a set of plans, and building a foundation and walls in eight hours. Building is her favorite part. “A mason is a very hard job,” Mitch remarks of her skills. Inchantra’s father was a mason and after he passed away, she became interested in the trade. Inchantra first started in the wood shop where she created a wood pendant to carry some of her father’s ashes.
Melissa Berg – Construction Health and Occupational Safety
Melissa Berg, also a junior, is competing in the health and occupational safety aspect of construction work. Her role is to keep documentation and make sure everyone is following Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines in the construction and wood arts classes. She will present her notebook to a panel of judges at nationals. “My favorite part of being involved in class and SkillsUSA is the new friends I have made,” says Melissa. “I would have never probably talked to these guys otherwise.”
Melissa wasn’t originally in the construction class. “I didn’t think I would be good at it and now we are going to nationals,” she says.
“There’s a role for everyone in the trades,” replies Mitch.
Tim Sheets – Welding
Tim Sheets will display his welding sculpture at SkillsUSA national competitions. Tim most enjoys, “to work with my hands; do what I want to and turn an idea into something real. It gives me a chance to see what I can do.”
He plans to work for the Department of Natural Resources as a forester after graduation. He will continue to weld and create metal art as a hobby.
“Tim is very deserving and will represent us well,” says Brian Taylor, welding teacher and Tim’s advisor at nationals. “We are looking forward to it.”
At competition Tim will present his notebook with documentation of any hidden welds, participate in interviews and his sculpture will be evaluated. “SkillsUSA is a great partnership,” Brian says. “The kids get to talk to people in the trades and learn from them.”
Teamworks is a four-person team who constructs a small building in four days. A presentation accounts for twenty-five percent of their score and the team buys tools and materials with their points. “SkillsUSA is really fun,” says Kevin Garduno, carpentry lead in the Teamworks competition. We start to get closer as friends.” Kevin plans to join a construction apprentice program after graduation and become a union member.
Teamworks’ other members are Trajan Ziel as the mason, Jake Keehr as the plumber and Adam Elkins – who plans to be an Army electrician after graduation – as the electrician. Both Trajan and Jake are the first students at Centralia High School to qualify for nationals twice. “When students return each year, they’re excited and bring that excitement to other kids here,” Mitch says.
Kevin will lead the build until the time comes for the mason, electrician and plumber to be the lead. This helps the group get a feel for how an actual construction site works and gain leadership skills.
Mike Rowe from the popular television show Dirty Jobs is the keynote speaker at SkillsUSA. “He gets it – this country needs people in the trades,” says Mitch. “He’s also a huge advocate for kids.”
Mike Rowe supports kids who may forgo a college education. He started the Mike Rowe WORKS Foundation giving scholarships for those learning the trades.
SkillsUSA Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky, will be June 23 to 30. The students are raising money for the trip. Those interested in donating can contact Mitchell Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 360-789-7145 or 360-330-7605 ext. 6168. Donations are tax-deductible and business sponsors will have their logo featured on the teens’ competition T-shirts.
These seven young people have worked hard to qualify for nationals. What’s more, they have shown they are ready for the next steps in their lives; they’re not afraid to work hard and get their hands dirty.