MOULTRIE — Students across the region traded a day at school for a helmet and a bag of tools as they competed in this year’s South-Southwest Georgia Skills Challenge on Tuesday morning.
The aim of the Skills Challenge is to increase students’ interest in the construction industry and to help them become familiar with some of the industry exhibitors. The event was held at Spence Field and was one of seven competitions hosted by Associate General Contractors of Georgia in partnership with JCI Contractors this year.
The Moultrie program was the largest event to date in regional competitions with around 21 high schools participating and more than 100 program observers, according to AGC chief executive Michael Dunham.
This is the fifth South-Southwest Georgia Skills Challenge held in Moultrie.
“Labour for us [is our number one] job because we have four people leaving our industry for every [person] that we are putting in place,” Dunham told attendees at the opening ceremony. “That’s the challenge we have. We need to introduce the construction industry to more young men and women to [help them] see it as a career path, and… it’s a great career because it [has] high-paying, high-demand jobs.
Lyndy Jones, founder and president of JCI Contractors of Moultrie and current president of AGC Georgia, agreed that it was important for students to be exposed to the field early in their high school careers.
“As the host contractor, our team understands the importance of the AGC Georgia Skills Challenge series to our construction industry,” Jones said in a press release ahead of the event. “It’s a great way for our company to help young people learn about the many career paths within the construction industry while educating teachers, parents, school administrators, government and more at this incredible event.”
The Southern Regional Technical College has been a recurring exhibitor since 2017. Students were able to test their welding skills at the SRTC booth with Tifton Welding Instructor Brad Simmons using the VRTEX Virtual Reality Welding Training Simulator 360 from Lincoln Electric.
Doug Elridge of Lasseter Tractor Company said they continually pursue high school students to help them set career paths.
Students had two hours to complete their challenges in seven building categories, including carpentry, welding, plumbing, electrical, blueprint reading, masonry and team building.
This year marks Calvin Pratt and Hayden Craft, Early County High School sophomores competing in the Welding Skills Challenge.
“Every year the challenges change, it keeps me interested in them,” Pratt and Craft told The Observer.
Evalynn Sanford, a senior from Camden County High School, said competitions like the Skills Challenge and SkillsUSA helped her grow in the construction industry. On the strength of her experiences, she is currently working in an architecture firm and plans to pursue studies in architectural engineering after obtaining her diploma.
Dunham announced the top three finalists for each challenge and the overall category champions during the closing ceremony.
The overall category champions were: Ryan Colter, in carpentry from Wheeler County High School; Roydarius Hobbs, masonry from Thomson High School; Molly Bridges, in plumbing from Wheeler County High School; Amari Roster, in Electrical from Commodore Conyers College and Career Academy; Abigail Donaldson, reading maps of Lee County High School; Hamp Williams, Gaven Moten, Chase Peagler, of Clinch County High School in Team Building; and Carson Ansley, in welding from Thomson High School.
Wheeler County High School won the Overall Construction Cup for the Overall Skills Challenge.
The other competition finalists were:
In carpentry, Jeb Logue of Bainbridge High School placed second and Christoball Martinez of Statesboro High School placed third.
In Masonry, Aurturo Gonzales of Wheeler County High School placed second and Mason Newell of Lee County High School placed third.
In plumbing, Joey Gibbs of Harris County High School placed second and Mason Johnson of Lee County High School placed third.
In electrical, William Holiday of Crisp County High School placed second and Joshua Martin of Colquitt Christian Academy placed third.
In blueprint reading, Georgia Flowers of Lee County High School placed second and Chase Marr of Camden County High School placed third.
As a team, the Statesboro High School team, featuring Patrick Mock, Evan Smith, and Nathan Wallace, placed second and the Lee County High School team, featuring Ethan Bullington, Quitin Roudolf, and Cole Frisbee, placed second. ranked third.
The students who placed second through tenth in welding were Hunter Rhoden from Camden County High School, Gabe Williams from Camden County High School, Trey Paris from Camden County High School, Hunter Brogren from Central County High School of Thomas, Conner Mullin of Worth County High School. School, Hunter Wilkes of Lee County High School, Austin Connell of Worth County High School; Troy Williams of Lee County High School and Nacho Guzman of Colquitt County High School.