Wiregrass Georgia Technical College students attended the 54th Annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference held recently in Louisville, KY. More than 6,300 students competed in 102 different trade, technical and leadership fields. Students worked against the clock and each other, proving their expertise in occupations such as electronics, auto collision, precision machining, medical assisting and culinary arts. All competitions are designed, run and judged with the help of industry, trade associations, labor organizations and test competencies are set using industry standards.
Top student winners received gold, silver and bronze medallions. Many also received prizes such as tools of their trade or scholarships to further their career and education. The SkillsUSA Championship is for high-school and college-level students who are members of the 360,000-member SkillsUSA organization. Wiregrass received the most medals (10) and the most gold medals (4), among Georgia colleges. The state of Georgia was number two in the nation for medal count, at 82.
Wiregrass Auto Collision Repair student Johnathan Wolfe (Adel) won a gold medal in Collision Repair Technology. In the Community Service Competition, Wiregrass Radiology students Bridget Crudden (Valdosta), Amber Parton (Lakeland), and Blake Royals (Nashville) won Gold. The team presented the Tiaras and Ties project which not only helped them win the top in the nation but also receive an award from the Georgia State Director for the highest team score, a perfect 1,000, among Georgia contestants.
Winning Silver medals for the Promotional Bulletin Board Competition were: Emily Anderson (Valdosta), Nikki Hinson (Valdosta), and ShaDawn Powell (Lake Park).
Winning Bronze medals were Kellie Tucker (Fitzgerald) in Medical Terminology, and David Orr (Valdosta) in Barbering. Kellie was the recipient of an award from the Georgia State Director for the highest individual score, 98, among Georgia contestants.
The Wiregrass Skills Chapter was also recognized at the National Competition as a National Model of Excellence Chapter. Wiregrass Welding student Morgan Davis (Hahira), and Cosmetology student Amber Brown (Sparks) represented the college’s chapter. Wiregrass was one of 24 nationwide to be recognized for the chapter’s work this past year. Wiregrass was recognized by the National SkillsUSA Director, the Vice-President from Lowe’s Companies Inc., Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
For the first time ever, nitrogen plastic welding was introduced as part of the competition for the Collison Repair Technology competition at National SkillsUSA. This new technology allows one to weld plastic back together as if it’s never been damaged. After being taught this technique by instructors at Wiregrass, Johnathan Wolfe was able to stand out among competitors earning him a score of 95 percent on this one technique that helped him earn the top spot in the nation as the gold winner overall. “It felt great knowing that not only did I perform at my best, but knowing that I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of all the amazing instructors and mentors at Wiregrass, “shared Wolfe. “I’m very thankful for everyone that supported me and believed in me. What I did was a very big deal for my career.” Wiregrass purchased the new technology equipment last year to teach all students in the Auto Collision Repair program this new technique.
All of Wiregrass competitors earned the Skill Point Certificate, part of the Work Force Ready System. The criterion is developed and endorsed by industry representatives and signifies students who have achieved technical competencies and proficiencies on the national level.
Wiregrass was also represented in the following competitions: 3-D Visualization and Animation – Geremey Brantley (Valdosta) and Darren Lewis (Valdosta); CNC Milling – John Lake (Valdosta); Computer Programming – Andrew Singley (Tifton); Automotive Refinishing – Tae Anderson (Fitzgerald); and Model of Excellence/SkillsUSA Chapter representatives – Morgan Davis (Hahira), Olivia Gilliland (Hahira), Michael Horn (Fitzgerald), and Emily Davis (Hahira).
“Being a member of SkillsUSA is a wonderful experience for all involved, and a great opportunity for students to build workplace skills, as well as hone their technical skills for competition,” said Kelley Wetherington, Campus Life Coordinator. “We have some amazing students who worked hard and represented us well. Not only did our students work hard, so did our instructors, going above and beyond to prepare our students for their competitions. In addition to their coursework and preparing for competition, students and advisors dedicated over 2000 hours of work on community service-related projects this past year, which earned us the honor of being chosen as a National Models of Excellence Chapter. “We are very proud of all of our students for representing Wiregrass Georgia Tech and the state of Georgia at the state and national levels.”
SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry representatives working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. It is a national nonprofit organization serving teachers, high school and college students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical and skills service occupations, including health occupations. The SkillsUSA program hosts local, state, and national competition for students to showcase their skills learned through hands-on training in the classroom.