PIQUA — Shelby County students school competed in a Skilled Trades Ninja Challenge at the Upper Valley Career Center (UVCC) Tuesday morning, Feb. 25.
This was the second year for the county-wide “Ninja Madness,” Workforce Partnership of Shelby County Executive Director Deb McDermott said.
This year, a group of 41 students from seven schools participated. Parents, educators, and members of Area Energy & Electric, Ferguson Construction, Slagle Mechanical, UVCC, along with Workforce Partnership, gathered around to watch or help take part in the challenge. Students represented their home schools of Anna, Botkins, Fairlawn, Fort Loramie, Jackson Center, Russia and Sidney.
Tuesday’s schedule included a tour of UVCC, individual and team competitions, and complimentary lunch at the Cornerstone Café. Prizes were awarded to the top three males, top three female finishers and the top district team.
“I thought it was fantastic,” Ferguson Construction Human Resources Assistant Angie Ross said when asked of her thoughts about the morning competition.
Ross spearheaded the event for Ferguson, which brought in other companies to partner with them to provide electrical and HVAC challenges. Area Energy & Electric, Ferguson Construction and Slagle Mechanical created, built and provided the tools for the course.
“Everybody always has a great time. I think the kids were more involved (than at their schools’ competitions), because these were the kids (participating Tuesday) that are interested in the skilled trades,”she said.
The Skilled Trades Ninja Challenge started in 2017, but didn’t move to a county-wide competition until last year, McDermott said. The challenge traveled through the Shelby County and Sidney City Schools for this year’s competition starting in November.
“The goal is to raise awareness and develop interest in these careers. This proactive recruiting model can help to build the talent pipeline needed to fill these in-demand jobs” she said.
Students often are not exposed to relevant skills used in industry, McDermott said, and this event can bring some of these to students’ attention.
The competition began at each local school, in both a boys and girls division to find students with the fastest times. From that pool, the best three boys and three girls were chosen to compete on Tuesday at UVCC.
The required skills ranged from electrical work to carpentry. Tuesday’s challenge began with students wearing safety glasses and a hardhat provided by Ferguson Construction. The two competitors used an impact drill, after determining which drill bit was necessary for the screw before them, then measured a block, hammered a nail into a board, tightened three electrical wires and then tightened a corner of mini HVAC box while racing the clock to compete for the fastest time.
Ross said any student who brings back a hardhat they received in the competition if hired by Ferguson Construction in the future, will receive a $1,000 sign-on bonus.
The boys’ and girls’ divisions each went back and forth while pairing down the winners in a March Madness style division eliminator.
In the girls’ division, Julie Huelskamp, eighth-grader from Fairlawn, took first place, Brenna Cobb, eighth-grader from Anna, took second, and Lauren Manger, eighth-grader from Botkins, came in third place. In the boys’ division, Levi Gephart, eighth-grader from Fort Loramie, took home first place, Troy Zimpfer, eighth-grader from Anna took second place, and Russia sophomore Sam York came in third.
“I got 58 seconds at my school. I just felt like it was another competition,” said Brenna Cobb, 14, daughter of Brandon and Amy Cobb, when asked how she felt that morning when competing.
At the end of the competition, students participated in a team competition, in which each six students from each school battled it out. Fort Loramie took the prize for the fasted team.
Eli Putnam, 13, eighth-grader from Fairlawn, son of Jerry and Julie Putnam, said he was excited and nervous at the same time after winning his first lineup on Tuesday.
Each student went home with a K&J Ice Cream coupon. The Fort Loramie team competition winners took home McDonald’s coupons. The first, second and third place winners took home either lunch boxes or work bags containing hats, T-shirts, drill bits, coupons and/or other items donated by the sponsoring companies.
The event was sponsored by the Workforce Partnership of Shelby County, Area Energy & Electric, Ferguson Construction, Slagle Mechanical and UVCC.
Reach the writer 937-538-4823.