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Construction competition for high school students highlights need for skills
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Working on the masonry competition are, front to back, Zack Moss, 18, of Madison County High School, Brantley Jones, 17, of Madison County High School; Dawson Puckette, 17, of West Hall High and Lanier Charter Career Academy; and Cody Blackwell, 17, of Chestatee High School. - photo by RON BRIDGEMAN

Good-paying jobs are plentiful in construction trades — for those students interested and committed to working.

That was the underlying message Thursday at the Northeast Georgia Workforce Development Alliance skills challenge.

“This is all about getting the kids exposed to the construction industry. There’s a huge need for skilled labor,” said Rodney Presley, construction technology instructor at Lanier Charter Career Academy.

The event highlighted competition in four trades — carpentry, masonry, plumbing and electricity — and provided information about those and training for them in “Construction University,” sessions with industry and technical college representatives.

It was the inaugural challenge at Lanier Charter Career Academy. About 20 students from five schools competed Thursday morning. Another competition — driving nails — was a sideline at the event.

About 150 students from the schools attended the event, watched the competition and attended the sessions.

The two and a half hour competition started slowly as the students read instructions, made calculations and decided on their paths and found tools. By shortly after 10 a.m., sawing, hammering, wire-pulling and mixing “mud” for masonry were underway.

Winners were Lanier Charter Career Academy’s Logan Haynie; Madison County High’s Michael Carter in electrical; Madison County’s Brantley Jones in masonry; Madison County’s Konner Jones in plumbing; and Madison County’s Josiah Jachimski in nail driving, with five nails in 6.86 seconds.

Schools in the competition were Lanier Charter Career Academy, Madison County High, Flowery Branch High, West Hall High and Johnson High.

Carroll Daniel, a Hall County construction company, provided judges for the competition. One judge, Alex Roman, is a Flowery Branch High student who also works for Carroll Daniel and attends Gwinnett Technical College, Presley said.

Presley said the local event was a preliminary round of competition to region and state events for SkillsUSA that will be held in the winter and spring. Presley called it “kind of practice for the ‘big game’ of SkillsUSA.”

Capital City Electrical Services touted its new scholarship program for apprenticeships. “We see it as a greatly needed deal,” said Jerry Wartko, the company’s CEO.

The company has had an apprenticeship program, but the scholarships are a new effort, he said.

He explained the company will pay all costs for three people to start its apprentice program. He called the shortage of skilled workers “a dire need.”

Wartko said service electricians can make $70,000 to $80,000 and master electricians can make six figures.

He said he has had the company for 10 years. It does industrial and commercial work, he told a group of students.

“We’re very selective on who we’re going to choose,” Wartko warned the students.

Presley and Wartko noted the construction trades have aging workforces. Both men pointed out the average age of construction workers is mid- to late-50s, and replacements are not available in the same numbers.

“There’s not enough young people” entering the field, Presley said.

“I know the (students) on the state level, the ones that shine, they get job offers just like that,” Presley said, snapping his fingers.