skills challenge

Students from 12 area schools, students from Cedartown High School and Rockmart High School, participated in the Workforce Development Alliance Skills Challenge held Monday at the Polk County College and Career Academy. The students competed in various disciplines including welding, electrical, plumbing and masonry.

There was a lot of noise being made at the Polk County College and Career Academy on the morning of Nov. 1.

Hammering, sawing and other sounds one might hear at a construction site were everywhere. And it was a very good thing. It meant area students were practicing valuable skills they can put to use in future careers.

The Associated General Contractors of Georgia partnered with Duffey Southeast Inc. to host the Workforce Development Alliance Skills Challenge for Northwest Georgia construction students at the facility, located at Cedartown High School.

Students represented 12 area high schools, including PCCCA students from Cedartown High School and Rockmart High School.

Other participating schools were Adairsville High School, Carrollton High School, Chattooga High School, Gordon Central High School, Harris County High School, Lanier College & Career Academy, Lee County High School, Northwest Whitfield High School, Polk County College and Career Academy, Floyd County Schools College and Career Academy, and Rome High School.

The competitions Monday in Polk County were one of seven regional events held throughout the state.

Students competed in the following categories: blueprint reading, carpentry, electrical, masonry, plumbing, TeamWorks — in which they had to work as a team to complete large projects — and welding.

Cedartown’s Easter Wood placed third in masonry, while Chattooga High School was the overall winner.

Mike Dunham, CEO of AGC Georgia, said the competitions are a great way for young men and women to demonstrate their skill sets and learn new things.

“For example, we have an elaborate project for them to build as a team — including putting a roof on it,” he said. “There’s also welding, plumbing, electrical, masonry and blueprint reading. Our industry is challenged by not having enough of a skilled workforce.”

The challenges offer students a chance to showcase their skills in various disciplines. Awards are given to first, second and third place in each category and there’s also an overall school winner.

In addition to the competitors, the challenges bring in other students to observe and learn, in hopes that they might take an interest in one of the disciplines.

Local industry companies provide volunteer judges for each of the skills competitions, as well as the volunteers who offer hands-on activities for student observers. These activities help students become more familiar with specific construction trades.

“It’s very impressive to see some of these students’ skill level,” Dunham said. “We had a masonry contractor come out as a judge for one of our challenges and he told me that two of the students we had were as good as half the workers today. That says a lot about how much these students are already learning in these trades.”

The event also prepares students who go on to compete in the regional SkillsUSA event in January. Winners of that regional event will participate in the state SkillsUSA competition in late February at the Georgia World Congress Center.

Most importantly, Dunham said, the event exposes young people to an industry that could one day prove to be a lucrative and rewarding career.

“We need more young men and women to see construction as a career path,” he said. “At an event like this they can come and put their skill set to the test and perfect it. It helps us to tell that story and get kids excited about all the different jobs in this industry.”

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