Career Center students gear up for competition in Havre

2014-03-13T18:30:00Z 2014-03-14T09:47:07Z Career Center students gear up for competition in HavreBy ROB ROGERS rrogers@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Students from the Career Center's SkillsUSA Club are headed up to Havre next month to compete with other Montana high schools with a little assist from some friends. 

The Billings Home Builders Association donated $1,200 to the club, enough to cover the costs of four students to travel and compete. In total, 12 are headed up to the competition.

The Home Builders Association has a 38-year partnership with the Career Center, helping students build a home each year. The four students sponsored by the group are part of the Career Center's construction program. 

"Our mentors come out and volunteer on their work site," said Denise Smith, executive director of the HBA. "We're training our future workforce."

The SkillsUSA Club has a similar aim. It's a national club for high school students that focuses on teaching marketable skills to teens.

Students with an interest in vocational work — everything from auto mechanics to welding to construction — get involved with the club and meet every Thursday after school, working in their respective interests. 

"It takes it a level up from class," said Nate Liebe, a senior from Skyview and president of the SkillsUSA Club. He's in the school's construction program. 

The club helps prepare them for careers in the fields they have interest by connecting them with professionals and helping them develop skills they'll need in the workforce. 

"For me, it was about furthering my experience with automotive (mechanics)," said Kyle McClintock, a senior from West. 

But it's not all skills training and career preparation. A big part of the club is finding ways to serve in the community. 

Last winter, the club fixed up a 1988 Lincoln Town Car and donated it to a single mom living in the Montana Rescue Mission women's shelter. It's the third car in the last four years that Career Center students have fixed up and donated. Each time the school has a car it contacts the Rescue Mission, asking for help in finding the right recipient.

The chance for the 12 students to get up to Havre and compete is important to the school. Not only will they be demonstrating the skills they've learned so far, they'll be involved with leadership activities that will help in their career training. 

There will also be scholarships. 

"The kids we have come back with some pretty significant scholarship opportunities," said Ken Adams, who teaches at the Career Center and is the club's adviser. 

But it's costly to go. The club must rent vans and pay for gas, food and lodging. In addition, they must cover the entrance fees for the competition. So the club fundraises throughout the school year to earn the money to go. 

The competition itself is challenging, but a lot of fun. Liebe is the only student of the 12 going this year who attended last year. 

At the 2013 contest, he and the other Career Center construction students had to build a wall. They were judged on safety, accuracy, quality and time. 

Dustin Huntington, a senior from Senior High, will be competing in welding this year. He believes the judges will look at accuracy and quality, but he's not sure. There's no list of requirements, he said.

It'll certainly be a unique experience. 

"We really don't have too many competitions where you can just go weld," he said. 

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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