A few welding students said ahead of the Capital City Welding Classic that they were a little nervous about the competition, but they knew they would use skills that they had already learned in their classes at the Franklin County Career and Technical Center.
“You got to keep the confidence going,” said Aaron Beagle, a senior at Western Hills High School who studies welding.
He is among six students from FCCTC who will participate in the competition, which will be hosted at their school, later this week. Sixty to 100 students from the commonwealth and a few from West Virginia are expected to compete.
FCCTC welding instructor Randy Shewmaker organizes the Classic. Students will compete Thursday evening and Friday, with awards tentatively around 1 p.m. The teacher said the public is welcome to stop by and see welders in action.
The top winner will receive a full ride to Tulsa Welding School, and the second and third place winners will get half tuition and a quarter of tuition, respectively. All students who attend the competition will receive a $500 scholarship to the school, Shewmaker said. Five Star Welding will award the top Franklin County student a $500 scholarship.
Previously, the competition awarded trophies, but winners this year will receive belt buckles with the name of the competition and year on the front. Shewmaker said the decision to change the type of award was made because it allows students to wear or keep the recognition as an heirloom for years to come.
Shewmaker started the Classic about 16 years ago, shortly after he became the school’s welding instructor. Now, the competition is the largest in the state, he said.
Competitions like the Capital City Welding Classic give students confidence not only in their own craftsmanship but about entering the industry as a whole. Shewmaker said that being in a competition as a student is like applying for a welding job — the best welder wins.
Welding is among trade industries with a high demand for skilled workers these days. Shewmaker said the average welder is now 55 years old.
“Without these people, the lifestyle that we have now, we wouldn’t be able to support it,” Shewmaker said.
Beagle said he chose to take welding classes at FCCTC as a high school freshman because he “didn’t know what I wanted to do.” After being in Shewmaker’s classes, Beagle's interest piqued.
Xia Jennings, another WHHS senior who will be representing FCCTC in this week's competition, said he “always wanted to get into a trade skill” and was also considering being an electrician before taking welding classes.
Devon Thomas, who also will be on the FCCTC team and is a senior at WHHS, took a tour of FCCTC as a Bondurant Middle School student and thought that welding looked like fun.
“And it turns out to be a good career, so I’m sticking with it,” he said.