WCC Students Win Gold, Silver at National Championships
WCC students in skilled trades programs won a total of four gold medals and one silver medal at the SkillsUSA Championships in Kansas City June 24-25. WCC was one of the top winners at the event, which pitted state champions from around the country against each other.
Welding student Joe Young won gold in the SkillsUSA World Trials sponsored by the American Welding Society, which were held in conjunction with the main competition. He won a $40,000 scholarship to the school of his choice, along with a chance to represent the United States at the WorldSkills Competition in Calgary this September.
Other WCC students who took first place at the SkillsUSA Championships include:
- Steve Carr, motorcycle service technology
- Phil Davie, automotive refinishing technology
- Brandon Maierle, mobile electronics installation
WCC’s welding and fabrication team, which drew national attention because all of its members are female, won a silver medal at SkillsUSA.
Young took a circuitous route to being named the best college-level welder in the U.S. He arrived at WCC in the fall of 2006 not knowing what he wanted to do. He took a variety of classes, and discovered welding. What attracted him? “I like playing with fire,” Young said.
He was good enough that in 2007, he won gold at the state SkillsUSA competition. He placed second at the national championships in 2008, missing out on gold by just two-tenths of a point.
Because the WorldSkills Competition is biennial, the American Welding Society holds a series of “weld-offs” for top collegiate welders to choose the U.S. representative. Young placed fifth in the last round, which he thought eliminated his chance to go further. But one of the other competitors dropped out, and Young was asked to compete against two other college students in the World Trials in Kansas City.
For several months before the trials, he prepared by practicing 14 hours a day, seven days a week. He worked closely with Glenn Kay II, a WCC welding and fabrication instructor who previously won at the World Trials himself. “He got me up to speed,” Young said. “He’s a phenomenal welder, and it was cool to have that experience.” Young also received key help from Coley McLean, a WCC welding and fabrication instructor who often came in on Sundays to help him train.
Despite his national title, Young doesn’t consider himself a natural-born welder. “Anybody could do what I did,” he said. “It’s just time and practice.”
Now that he’s returned from Kansas City, Young is back to his 14-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week training schedule. He’ll soon travel to Atlanta, Ga., where he’ll receive several weeks of training courtesy of the American Welding Society. “I’m going to be trained by some of the masters in the trade,” Young said. “To train with some of these guys will be awesome. I’m very grateful for everything.”
Young, who attended Hartland High School, will finish his WCC classes this fall. After graduating he plans to use his $40,000 scholarship to further his education, perhaps at Ferris State University. Eventually, he’d like to run his own shop.
WCC’s all-female welding and fabrication team was “the talk of the town the entire time we were in Kansas City,” said Jake Holland, a welding and fabrication instructor. “Everyone was so excited and enthused about seeing women in welding, and seeing them be exceptional competitors.”
For weeks before the competition, the team members—Samantha Riley, Sally Rudin, and Ashley Webel—practiced at least 25-30 hours per week. “I’m just so happy about how well we did, and that all of our hard work paid off,” Riley said.
Competing against 13 other teams from around the country, WCC’s team had six-and-a-half hours to build a rolling tool cabinet. “It was intense,” Rudin said. “It was pretty cool.”
Webel said she was “ecstatic” when it was announced at the awards ceremony that the WCC team had won silver. After the ceremony, team members got to talk to the president of the American Welding Society and representatives of major U.S. welding companies. “It was pretty inspiring to be able to talk to people from big names in the industry,” Webel said.
Team members said they hope their win has an impact on the welding industry. “I’m hoping that more women become involved in welding because of us,” Riley said. If their effort causes just a few women to think about going into welding, she said, “then we’ve accomplished our goals.”