‘It’s an art’: Students converge on fairgrounds for first regional career and technical education competition – Reuters

SALISBURY — Four years ago, masonry and carpentry caught the interest of South Rowan High School senior Kevin Rodriguez.

A few cutting boards, coasters and coffee tables later, Rodriguez is now working to turn that interest into a full-time career.

Currently dual-enrolled at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College for construction management, Rodriguez can earn certification to practice masonry professionally within a year. In the first year, he enrolled in masonry courses and discovered his passion for woodworking by going to the workshop.

Rodriguez was one of more than 40 Rowan-Salisbury Schools students who gathered Saturday at the Rowan County Fairgrounds for North Carolina’s first regional vocational and technical training event in preparation for the North Carolina SkillsUSA competition. Rowan-Salisbury Schools students were high school students from Orange, Stanly, Columbus, Montgomery, and Cabarrus counties.

The regional event included beginner and intermediate level competitions for block building, cabinetmaking, masonry and carpentry.

At Saturday’s event, Rodriguez competed in the masonry contest and cabinetry showcase. For the showcase, participants designed and constructed their work offsite. The piece he presented on Saturday was a pine wood storage crate that took him about five days to build. It’s activated by a fingerprint motion sensor and the top has been painted to represent the American flag. Rodriguez said he sold the case for around $200.

Rodriguez said carpentry is appealing because “you can get a piece of wood and create anything with it.” He and other students have helped their instructor work on back patio projects, for example. For students considering carpentry and masonry courses, Rodriguez says go for it.

“I like it because you can realistically build anything,” he said. “I would say do it, go for it. If you don’t like it, find something else. But I think it’s really fun and I think everyone would really enjoy it.

Kent Huntley, one of the judges at the event and president of the North Carolina Masonry Contractors Association, said companies in the trade sector had worked alongside RSS over the previous decade to highlight trades like that masonry and carpentry as ideal careers after graduation. Huntley said students who start a career in the masonry industry after learning the trade earn an average of $50,000 in the first few years. He commended them for their passion and interest in the trades and for exploring it as a post-grad option.

“I know it’s cliché to say it, but they’re all winners,” Huntley said. “Because they are exposed to a trade, and if they come to learn that, no one can take that away from them.”

Huntley welcomed Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ involvement in such programs and said it was “something we need to keep pushing”.

Some students told the Post they wanted to learn masonry because of family members who work in the industry. Some were inspired to enter the field after graduation, such as East Rowan High sophomore Mason Ridenhour.

Ridenhour said he worked with his father in the masonry industry during the summers and is familiar with competitions, which also provide an opportunity to meet other people. But like all projects, it takes a few hours and patience.

“It’s an art, but it also takes a lot of skill,” Ridenhour said.

Braxton Smith, a sophomore at East Rowan High, also views the final brickwork product as an art project. Smith said he appreciates it more and more as he improves in the craft and competitions like the one on Saturday provide more opportunities for growth.

“We all have different ways of laying bricks. There are different ways to do it,” Smith said. “Do your best and go ahead and make it a good art project.”

The students said the biggest and most important challenge during the masonry competition was to make sure all the bricks are level and flush.

Other students say they are keeping business careers as options when they graduate, including South Rowan High sophomore Rylie Williams, who said she likes being able to look back on how she got on. is improved and work to strengthen these skills.

Holly Pore, director of career and technical education for RSS, said the district has competed, but this year marks the first time regional schools have come together for a single competition. While it creates friendly competition for students, it also helps fill a “huge skills gap” that many older adults in the industry worry about when they retire.

Pore ​​said the CTE program helps educate students that there are additional pathways for students after graduation.

“Students who want to find another path for this pursuit of post-secondary studies, they find it in the labor market. So it provides a way for them to earn a decent living through learning a skill that often pays more than pursuing a four-year degree,” Pore said. “We value education; we encourage our students to continue their studies. But there are other ways to do it.

Pore ​​said about 8,000 high school students are enrolled in the CTE program in RSS, and that number jumps to 11,000 if middle school students are included. Pore ​​said outreach initiatives aim to generate interest in these industries as early as grade five.

“Passion doesn’t happen right away,” Pore said. “Children don’t become passionate about something. It starts with an interest, you add skills, have success, it builds confidence and it leads to a passion. And then we hope that this passion will turn into a professional aspiration. It doesn’t always turn out like this, but we want to show them, ‘Hey, if you’re passionate about it, man, it could make you some money.’ »

On Saturday, RSS students swept the chessboard of the regional event, dominating in particular the carpentry and masonry competitions. Most of these winners will advance to the national SkillsUSA competition in Greensboro April 27-29. Winning carpentry teams include East Rowan High juniors Andrew Boyd and Connor Yon for first place, West Rowan High senior Rosty Menius and second Charles Menius for second place and South Rowan High seniors Hector Bernal and Romeo Sosa for third place.

The Masonry event was separated into Masonry I and Masonry II. In the entry-level masonry competition, winners included West Rowan High sophomore Corbin Nations for first place, East Rowan High sophomore Mason Ridenhour for second place, West Rowan freshman Dylan Smith for third place, Carson High sophomore Cole Kirkpatrick for fourth place and Carson High freshman Aaron Sanchez for fifth place.

For the Intermediate Level Masonry Competition, the first place winner was Anderson Pruett senior of West Rowan. While North Stanly High School senior Nathaniel Myers took second place, Carson High senior Aiden Toledo placed third, West Rowan junior Nicholas Sloop placed fourth and West Rowan junior Aaron Russel placed fifth.

Alongside the masonry event was the block competition, which used concrete blocks rather than bricks. West Rowan High junior O’Connor Leonard placed first, with students from Columbus Career and College and West Stanly High placing second and third.

In the base-building event, South Rowan High School senior Caiden Moore and sophomore Carlton Carey placed first and second, respectively, while AL Brown High School junior Olivia Vanover placed first and second. third.

In the cabinetry showcase, Jesse C. Carson High School freshman Garett Gregg placed third. Showcase events included pieces designed and built before the competition.

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