Students Show Off Skills at Regional Competition

CANFIELD, Ohio – Both students and industry benefit from the Ohio Northeast Regionals SkillsUSA Competition staged Friday at Mahoning County Career & Technical Center.

“What the students are gaining is an understanding of more of that real-world application, but it’s also, this level here will get them to the state competition,” said Walter Baber, MCCTC engineering and robotics instructor and one of the coordinators for the regional event. 

It also allows employers, who volunteer as judges for the competition, to scout prospective employees.

“It’s a good way for the students to showcase what they do and to meet a lot of the employers that they’ll be working for when they leave here,” he said.

The competition drew more than 350 students from 16 schools from throughout northeastern Ohio. The top finishers in each of the 26 categories will move onto the state competition next month in Columbus. Winners there move on to the national contest.

Walter Baber, MCCTC engineering and robotics instructor, is one of the coordinators at the school for the Ohio Northeast Regionals SkillsUSA Competition.

Contests demonstrated student skills in auto technology, welding, information technology cosmetology, auto collision repair, interviewing skills and many others.

“SkillsUSA is about preparing the kids for their next level, whether that level is for college or career, or whatever that level is,” Baber said. 

The competition presents real-world scenarios for the students.

“They’re going to show up not knowing what they’re going to get into,” Baber said. 

The contest allows students to show off what they’ve learned in their classes.

Judges at Friday’s event belong to the MCCTC Advisory Council, made up of area employers.

Joe Sander, the auto collision instructor at MCCTC, said the advisory members who work with his department ensure the school is preparing students for jobs in that industry.

For the auto collision competition, students demonstrated their skills in repairing dents, welding and painting, but judges evaluate more than just the finished work.

Sander said they watch students through all the steps, making sure they take safety precautions and make appropriate preparations.

Joe Sander, auto collision instructor at MCCTC, gets ready for the auto collision event to start Friday during the Ohio Northeast Regionals SkillsUSA Competition at the school.

MCCTC Superintendent John Zehentbauer said the MCCTC Advisory Council includes close to 400 members, representing each program at the school.

That council drives everything the school does, he said.

“These members basically look at our curriculum. They look at our material and make sure we’re doing everything we need to do to meet industry standards,” Zehentbauer said.

Jackson Douty, a senior at MCCTC and from Salem High School, competed in information technology and believes his classes at MCCTC positioned him well for the contest.

Students had to document all of the systems on a “bare bones” computer, set up the computer and install and configure an operating system.

“The past couple of years, what I’ve been learning really prepared me for the competition,” Jackson said.

He wants to be a network administrator or cybersecurity engineer and plans to enroll in college after graduation. He’s already done internships in the technology departments at both MCCTC and the Educational Service Center of Eastern Ohio, and he’s interning at the Area Cooperative Computerized Educational Service System.

The Ohio Northeast Regionals SkillsUSA Competition happens annually, but the location changes. This is the first of two years it will be at MCCTC, and then it will move on to another career center in the region.

Robert Kornack, assistant administrator for the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce, manages the regional SkillsUSA competitions in the state. He says the contest also teaches students leadership and professional development skills in addition to the competition.

It’s fun for the students but helps industry too.

“Our contests are aligned to what the students are learning in the classroom,” Kornack said. “Our classroom programs are aligned to what industry needs. We’re always revising and making sure they’re aligned, so how we try to close that gap is to make sure students are coming out with those skills that are necessary for gainful employment.”

Pictured at top: Jackson Douty, a senior at MCCTC, competed in the information technology event at the Ohio Northeast Regionals SkillsUSA Competition.

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