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Morning Sun
  • Students square off at SkillsUSA

  • If you ask Doug Hague, assistant professor of wood technology at Pittsburg State, there’s been a little shift in the work force demands.

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  • If you ask Doug Hague, assistant professor of wood technology at Pittsburg State, there’s been a little shift in the work force demands.
    “For the longest time, we told our kids to be doctors or learn computers. But there’s now a big gap where working with your hands was a bad thing,” Hague said. “Now, we’ve got a big gap of people ready to retire and no one to fill their spots. Who’s going to fix our toilets and build our homes?”
    Friday, some of the next generation of those who enjoy working with their hands took part in a competition — SkillsUSA.
    SkillsUSA pits students from schools around the state in trade competitions. For instance, the cabinetmaking competition was held at Pittsburg State’s Kansas Technology Center on Friday. Each competitor was given the same set of raw materials and the same set of blueprints for a completed cabinet. The other catch — it all must be done in four hours.
    “It is actually designed not to finish,” said SkillsUSA judge Roger Hays, from Precision Craft in Olathe. “In the first group this morning, only one out of the 20 was able to finish. It’s also his third year, and he struggled the first year. It’s interesting to watch this process. Instructors go back and know what to teach, and the kids get ideas from their competitors.”
    With so few able to finish, the criteria for judging is not just about completion. In fact, that’s just one part. The others include accuracy to the blueprints and craftsmanship. The winners from Friday’s contest will go to the national competition later this year. Competitors came from as far as Wichita for the contest.
    “This is the only place with a facility like this. For our regional, this is where we compete,” said Leroy Kuhnel, Wichita-Southeast High School wood instructor. “It brings together all the instruction in one program. This is what we do in our classroom. [The students] can compete against others. They can see how they stack up against others. SkillsUSA is a good organization.”
    The students had their work cut out for them, as it is for those in areas other than cabinetmaking. But Hague and Hays said the competition prepares the students for more than just college.
    “It’s applied learning. We use math and science every day. These students have to make a cut list, look at the blueprints and detail the size of all the cuts,” Hague said.
    “The ability to interpret blueprints and apply that to manufacturing, from raw goods to the finished product, is really what we want them to show,” Hays said.
     

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