Skill on display | From the Observer

Manatee Technical College hosts SkillsUSA competition.

P.J. Miller’s finished product represented 60 hours of time and energy.

At least 20 of those hours were spent welding his metal log cabin, his sculpture welding entry in the Feb. 7 SkillsUSA regional competition at Manatee Technical College.

“There’s just so many possibilities,” he said of his category, noting it was nice to explore his creativity.

His hard work paid off as Miller placed first in his category and was just one of 64 MTC students who placed at the competition.

The possibilities abounded in all the categories, which ranged from welding to public speaking to video production to baking.

“I can tell you stories of different employers seeking students who have been involved in SkillsUSA. They’re a step above, they’re the cream of the crop.”

— Michelle Meluch

More than 480 students competed in the regional competition from schools all over the region according to Michelle Meluch. Meluch is the SkillsUSA adviser at MTC.

“SkillsUSA is what we call a career and technical student organization,” she said. “It primarily focuses on students who are in trade and industrial programs, although we do have a lot of the business technology and culinary arts, hospitality industry [and] public services.”

Students are evaluated by third-party judges who work in the industries they’re judging, Meluch said. If students place first or second, they typically advance to the state level of the competition. If they do well there, they then move on to the national competition.

Many instructors at MTC have an internal selection process for students to qualify for the regional competition. Students who compete reap the rewards, Meluch said.

“It’s a great thing to put on their resume that they competed at a regional, state and/or national level and they’ve been judged and evaluated by business and industry partners,” she said.

Amanda Noellert’s sculpture she entered into the welding sculpture competition.

Amanda Noellert, who entered MTC in August, competed in the sculpture welding competition alongside Miller. She placed third.

The third-place finish was a bonus for Noellert, who said she was happy with the sculpture she created.

State Farm’s Kirk Cook said he judges at the national level of the competition. He said he was impressed with the work the students were doing in the automotive collision and refinishing category, adding  he’s seen continued improvement in the talent at the SkillsUSA competition over the years.

“I’ve seen some glimmers of great talent,” he said.

MTC student Elizabeth Bocanegra participated in the prepared speech category. She said the competition will help her have better communication with employers and clients as she enters the dental industry.

Meluch emphasized the talent at the competition.

“I can tell you stories of different employers seeking students who have been involved in SkillsUSA. They’re a step above, they’re the cream of the crop,” she said. “The life experiences are just phenomenal.”

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