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Skills on display

Students flock to Blair County for trade competition

01/19/22 Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski / Admiral Peary Area Vocational Technical School senior Lucas Grodis of Penn Cambria High School, Cresson, competes in the HVACR (Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning and Refrigeration) competition during the District 7 SkillsUSA Skill & Leadership Championships at the Blair County Convention Center on Wednesday.

About 300 students from 11 schools gathered at the Blair County Convention Center to compete in SkillsUSA’s District 7 Skill and Leadership Championships on Wednesday

The championships consisted of 51 technical and leadership competitions that included everything from commercial baking to carpentry to medical math, according to SkillsUSA adviser Pam Kenawell.

“Everything that a (career and technology center) trains you in, is what we compete in,” Kenawell said.

The competition not only determines which students move on to the state and national competitions but highlights the potential of those pursuing a career in the trades.

Lucas Grodis, a heating, ventilation and air conditioning student from Admiral Peary Area Vocational and Technical School, Ebensburg, and senior at Penn Cambria High School, always knew he was more of a hands-on type of guy when it came to work.

“I don’t like to sit behind a desk, and I’ll do anything in my power to stop me from sitting behind a desk all my life,” Grodis said while charging an air conditioning unit.

According to HVAC judge Mike Seidel of Riley Plumbing & Heating, the HVAC competitors had to complete three projects: first was to duplicate a set of plans using copper and fitting, second was to replicate recharging an AC unit and third was to complete a wiring schematic using high and low voltage.

“They also had a 40-question written general knowledge test,” Seidel said. “A lot of it is just aptitude, whether they know what they’re getting into or not.”

While recruiting the competitors as potential employees had crossed Seidel’s mind, he said he was more there “to make sure they know what they’re doing so they can move on to the next level.”

Wednesday’s competition was Allison Lockard’s first. A Greater Altoona Career and Technical Center cosmetology student and Altoona Area High School senior, Lockard had to give friend Megan Pensyl a facial, a daytime makeup look and a fantasy Disney look for the esthetician competition.

“It was fun,” Lockard said. “I want to do esthetics after school. I’ve competed since I was in 10th grade so I’ve just kept going with it.”

Talking to the competitors was a challenge in and of itself, as they were instructed to remain anonymous.

One student would only give a vague approximation of where he was from, saying he wasn’t local to Altoona but lived closer than Mifflin.

“It’s a huge thing that we have preached and preached that they are a number today,” Kenawell said. “Then when they win, they can show that there was no bias. We make sure that it is completely fair.”

Each of the competitions was judged by professionals from that industry. For example, the commercial baking judges were from Greenbean Coffee House, Maddie Cakes Bakery and Rachel Bites Bakery, Kenawell said.

In addition to the competitions being held in the convention center, students in certain disciplines were transported to competitions at off-site locations. These included diesel equipment technology students going to Allegheny Truck; automotive maintenance and light repair and automotive technology students going to Altoona Honda; and cabinetmaking and precision machining students going to the GACTC.

All first-place winners will move on to the state competition being held in Hershey in April, Kenawell said. From there, they have the potential of moving on to nationals in Georgia in June.

According to SkillsUSA District 7 adviser Dodie Amigh, secondary and adult students were competing in the same tasks but in separate contests.

SkillsUSA District 7 includes Admiral Peary Area Vocational and Technical School, Bedford County Technical Center, Central PA Institute for Science & Technology, Clearfield County Career and Technical Center, Fulton County CTC, Greater Altoona CTC, Huntington County CTC, Jefferson County-DuBois AVTS, Mifflin County Academy of Science and Technology, Northern Bedford County High School, St. Mary’s High School and State College Area School District. St. Mary’s was the only school absent from the competition.

Mirror Writer Rachel Foor is at 814-946-7458.

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