Qualified Remodeler introduced SkillsUSA in its December 2011 issue, page 16, with Tim Lawrence, executive director, giving an overview of the program. In this issue, a former SkillsUSA student shares his experience with the program that led him to his career:
I started with the Electrical Trades course at Sentinel Career and Technology Center, Tiffin, Ohio, during my junior year in high school. One thing we did was motor controls, including factory wiring and push-button start motors, which I excelled at so my teacher encouraged me by giving me more advanced tasks.
My senior year, my classmates and I wired a house with the building trades class, which took all year. I became good friends with the building trades instructor, and he asked me if I would be interested in participating in a Teamworks team, which I was. The Teamworks team competition is when four trades—carpentry, electrical, masonry and plumbing—work together on one project. I started practicing with the building trades team so I could get an idea of my teammates’ specific trades in case I ever had to help them during competition. I really got to know that whole class and my other three Teamworks team members. When it came near competition time, we practiced for the regional competition, a one-day competition where each team member participated individually in their trade.
We won our regional competition and advanced to the state SkillsUSA competition in Columbus, Ohio. There, we competed in the building part of the Teamworks team competition. My team was Daniel Arbogas, plumbing; Zack Bouillon, carpentry; and Andrew Mack, masonry. I did electrical. Aaron Thompson was the building trades instructor and our Teamworks team instructor.
For the state competition, we would practice in the mornings by building a T-shaped wall on a 4- by 8-foot platform, wiring it and doing the plumbing and masonry. Some of the bigger technical schools have a complete plumbing or masonry class, but at Sentinel we had only a building trades class, which was the only construction class. Some of us would spend more time before and after school practicing for masonry and plumbing, and we also went to our sister school, the Vanguard Tech Center, Fremont, Ohio, where we could practice with the masonry class. We were comfortable working together in each other’s categories so I think we were more advanced than some other teams.
Once we won the state competition, we practiced through the summer to prepare for nationals. We did a lot more studying and building to prepare for a bigger project.
At nationals, the platform was 8 by 9 feet. Everything was full-size scale. It was more intricate with more carpentry and detail work. For masonry, there were quoined corners. For electrical, I had to put a panel in and do a tankless water heater, switches and outlets, dryer and washer receptacles, and some lighting. At nationals we worked out of a three-ring binder that guided us and included instructions. At state they just gave us a set of blueprints. We had a set of steps to follow; everything had to be done in sequential order. I couldn’t have my electrical work done before everyone else was done. It had to be in order, like a normal job would run.
Nationals was a four-day event. The first day was an introductory day, and we wrote our speeches about how we would run the tasks that we presented to the judges. We even had a PowerPoint presentation. The second and third days we built. The fourth day was teardown. We were judged on everything: how well we kept our sites clean throughout the competition, how well we worked with each other and teardown. I wouldn’t say ours was the most well-kept but it was fairly clean.
We had an advantage because we worked together beforehand, knew each other and felt comfortable with each other. I don’t know whether some schools have that advantage. It was a plus for us, especially for the first time Sentinel has ever been to the Teamworks competition at the national level and the second year our school has ever competed. It really helped us work together well.
It was a blast. I had so much fun. At first I wasn’t thrilled about doing the motor controls competition my junior year, but I did it and I was encouraged to do the Teamworks team and had even more fun. If I ever had the chance to do it again, I would do it.