PIQUA — Local students participated in a Skilled Trades Ninja Challenge sponsored by the Workforce Partnership of Shelby County on Tuesday at the Upper Valley Career Center.
The group of 25 students, parents and representatives from local companies, along with Workforce Partnership, took part in the challenge. Students from schools all over the county were in attendance, representing their home schools of Sidney, Russia, Fort Loramie, Holy Angels, Miami East and others.
Three local companies, Area Electric, Ferguson Construction and Slagle Mechanical, along with the Associated Builders and Contractors Ohio Valley Chapter, teamed up with the Workforce Partnership of Shelby County to bring this event to fruition.
Workforce Partnership Executive Director Deb McDermott said students often aren’t exposed to relevant skills used in industry and this event can bring some of these to light. Sidney High School’s Workforce Academy instructor and member of the Workforce Partnership’s Board of Directors Sharon Maurice echoed this idea, saying that making this event hands-on really helps as many students haven’t so much as held a hand tool before.
“It is so exciting to bring real world experiences to students that they can relate to potential careers,” Maurice said.
Area Electric General Manager Brian Moloney described the creative process behind the skills challenge, explaining that all three companies came together to create a fun, practical experience that taught real skills in a setting students could enjoy and compete in. This competition can even help the parents become engaged, setting up a support network for students who consider careers in the skilled trades.
The motivation behind the challenge came from the job shortage of skilled workers, with this event and other initiatives making the point that other options exist for students right out of high school. The old mindset was college or bust, but with great opportunities for careers in fields like electrical work or carpentry, students can feel comfortable going into these areas, organizers said. Other aspects of the skilled labor trades are changing, too, with a new focus on technology and a growing diversity of employees, along with many companies paying for continuing education.
Starting first at each local school, the competition was run in both a boys and girls division to find those students with the fastest times. From a pool of around 900 students in total, just the best three boys and three girls were chosen from each school based on their fastest times. After narrowing down the competition to the very best, these finalists were invited to compete at Tuesday’s event, a sort of all-star game.
As for the challenge these students completed, it required skills in various disciplines, ranging from electrical work to carpentry. Students began the challenge by putting on their own hardhat, decorated with stickers representing the companies present.
Then after donning safety glasses as well, students were met with two rectangular boards filled with half-sunk screws. After sinking a screw, they had to back it out, one screw for each board. Then two pieces of ductwork were attached with another drill.
A card with measurements listed on it was up next, with students using a tape measure to check the cuts on small pieces of board. The second-to-last station involved tightening three wires of varying diameter in brackets, and the final part of the challenge was hammering one nail all the way into a board.
The challenge was held with each game featuring a head-to-head competition. Overall, a double-elimination bracket was put in place, giving each student the chance to lose but also to redeem themselves in future rounds.
The boys’ and girls’ divisions each took turns playing early rounds, with the competition heating up over time. Some later games came down to the final hammer and nail with times dropping down by 20 seconds from the beginning.
The girls’ division finished up first, with Carley Scott from Russia taking first place, Kelsey Robinson of Russia taking second place and Ava Turner of Fort Loramie taking third place. The boys’ division finished up last with Nick Zerkle of Sidney taking home first place, Jude Schmiesing of Holy Angels taking second place in a narrow defeat and Darius Boeke of Sidney taking third.
The writer is summer intern for the Sidney Daily News.