Students from four different CareerTech Centers converged on the welding shop at the NTC Pryor Campus for this year’s SkillUSA Regional Welding Competition, and at the end of the hours-long contest, it was two Rogers County students who walked away with first place prizes.
“I was pretty surprised,” said NTC welding student Chase Thompson. “I tried my best, and I was confident, but I still got a little worried now and then.”
Thompson, a student at Claremore Sequoyah high school, competed in the secondary category of this SkillUSA competition. SkillsUSA is a national student organization that offers training, career opportunities, scholarships and prizes through annual competitions. Depending on the program, students may compete at regional, state or national levels. By winning regionals, Thompson advances to the state competition in April.
“I’m going to spend time practicing my torch cutting, because it could have been better,” Thompson said.
Joining Thompson at the SkillsUSA State Competition will be his classmate, Cody Sutton. Sutton is an adult student from Chelsea who competes in the post-secondary category, and like Thompson, he too was a bit surprised to hear his name called as the winner.
“I was surprised, because I’ve done better welds in practice,” Sutton said. “I was not expecting to finish first, but now that I have, I’m going to just keep working on whatever my instructors tell me needs work.”
The welding contest is a grueling multi-hour test that measures welders’ skills in cutting techniques and procedures. NTC Welding Instructors Craig Cooper and Willie Gaskins had a total of six students participating in the competition, but only those placing first and second move on to SkillsUSA State.
“It takes a lot of organization to hold this event – getting the judges, prepping the shop, picking up the materials,” Cooper said. “I think it helps our guys because they’re in this shop every day, but when you say ‘contest’ they still get a little nervous.”
In addition to the sanctioned SkillsUSA competition taking place, the welding instructors from across the region also collaborated to hold an unofficial contest for the first-year welding students.
Retired welder Wayne Brady was one of the judges brought in to judge the unofficial contest.
“They have to weld together two pieces of steel and then we judge them based on appearance and a bend test,” Brady said. “If their pieces pass the bend test, they can turn in the paperwork to get their welder’s certification card with the Oklahoma Department of Labor.”
Many companies require the welder’s certification card before granting interviews, and several first-year students walked away with their certifications.
“It’s a gate key, so to speak,” Brady said. “This will be what they can expect to do to gain employment.”
In total, NTC will have two students from the Pryor Welding and Fabrication Program competing at the SkillsUSA State Competition in April. Those students include:
- Chase Thompson of Claremore Sequoyah – 1st in Secondary
- Cody Sutton of Chelsea – 1st in Post-Secondary
The Welding Programs at NTC are some of the district’s most popular programs, and each has gained a reputation for excellence. Welding classes fill up quickly, and enrollment for next year is already underway. For more information about NTC Welding Programs at Afton, Kansas or Pryor, contact the district at 918-825-7040.