Skills that pay the bills
It was quite an eventful weekend for local students who participated at the statewide SkillsUSA competition in Peoria.
Career Center of Southern Illinois student Dawson Goldschmidt of Valmeyer took first place in welding for the second year in a row.
Goldschmidt said while last year’s welding state competition featured multiple projects, this year it consisted of one larger, more difficult project.
“Being able to take state for a second time was an unbelievable event for me,” said Goldschmidt, who as a senior will not be eligible to take the title a third time. “I had no idea if I was going to be able to do it, and when I did it was a great feeling of accomplishment. Winning state made me sure that my future in the welding industry would be bright.”
Goldschmidt joins Coulterville alumni Matt McKinley as the second student of CCSI welding instructor Gary Miller to achieve this feat. McKinley took state for the second time approximately 20 years ago.
“In the 32 years I’ve been teaching at CCSI, I’ve had only one other student win both his junior and senior year,” Miller said.
In taking first at state, Goldschmidt will travel to Atlanta, Ga., in late June to compete in the national competition. Last year, he placed 16th at nationals.
Columbia High School took home gold in the Teamworks competition, and provided it can secure enough funding, the dream team will also travel to Atlanta.
Together, CHS senior Drew Stumpf, senior Colin Cygan, sophomore Ty Schaefer and junior Kyle Rose constructed a mock bathroom and entryway in this competition.
Stumpf explained the four also had to exhibit masonry, plumbing and electrical skills.
“It was exhilarating hearing our names get called because of all of the hard work and dedication my teammates and I put into the event,” Stumpf said. “We also couldn’t do it without the help of our (industrial technology) teachers Ryan Hampton and Tyler Oberkfell.”
Aiden Albert, a senior CCSI student from Red Bud, took the highest state ranking of the CCSI automotive students; he secured third place in the automotive maintenance and light repair competition.
CCSI automotive service instructor Greg Baird said this was Albert’s second year placing third, except last year he took the title in the automotive service competition.
“Doing automobile maintenance and light repair is just the next step up from auto service,” Albert said. “Where auto service focuses more on the diagnosis of issues, maintenance and light repair focuses on performing tasks that you would likely be given in a shop environment.”
Baird explained both auto-related competitions featured multiple workstations. He said the automotive maintenance and light repair competition focused on troubleshooting, electrical, pre-delivery inspections and more.
Baird said the automotive service competition focused on tire balance, looking up service information, an electrical diagnostic station that differed from that of the automotive maintenance competition and more.
This year was the largest team CCSI has taken, the instructors said, with a total of 17 students traveling to Peoria to compete. Two other students also qualified, yet due to external circumstances were not able to attend the state competition.
Of those 17, a total of eight placed in the top 10 of their respective competitions. Marissa junior Acton Wittenbrink placed fourth in welding, Chester senior Dylan Kelkoff placed fifth in welding, Columbia senior Ethan Posey placed seventh in welding, Chester senior Gavin Cushman placed sixth in automotive service and light repair, Sparta junior Tyson Wilkey placed 10th in automotive service and light repair and Chester senior Max Allwardt placed eighth in automotive maintenance.
CHS brought a total of seven students. Aside from the four who competed in the Teamworks competition, sophomores Gage Thomson and Hayden Hrdlicka competed in welding sculpture. This requires competitors to design, produce and present a welding sculpture. Junior Matthew Fulton competed in automotive service technology.
Their placements have not yet been publicly posted.
As Oberkfell said, this was the first in-person SkillsUSA state competition since 2019.
“Since we have been in-person all year, a benefit that I noticed is that our team had more hands-on time to prepare,” Oberkfell said.
While Albert and Goldschmidt agreed being in-person made the competition more exciting, Goldschmidt said it had some additional daunting elements.
“The best part of this year’s contest was getting out and being able to see Peoria’s convention center and all the other Skills competitions. The hardest part about this year’s contest was welding in a different area with welding machines I was not familiar with,” Goldschmidt said.
SkillsUSA illustrates how students fulfill the mission of the organization “to empower members to become world-class workers, leaders and responsible American citizens.”