SkillsUSA competition spotlights students who know their way around a table saw

Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 4:23 PM
Claire Hufnagel, 16, a Bayfield High School student, lines up her cut Friday during the cabinet-making competition of the SkillsUSA Region 8 Championships held at Durango High School.
Kody Hoffman, 15, a Bayfield High School student, uses a table saw while competing Friday in cabinet-making at the SkillsUSA Region 8 Championships held at Durango High School.

Dylan Burress, 19, a Bayfield High School senior, has made Netflix binge-watching sessions a little more classy in the family living room with a walnut and cherry television stand.

"It's by far the thing I'm most proud of," Burress said while measuring a piece of wood Friday as he participated in the SkillsUSA Region 8 Championships held at Durango High School.

Burress took his first woodshop class as a freshmen and discovered his passion. He's been hooked since.

If he does well in the competition Friday, he'll earn an opportunity for a trip to Colorado Springs and a chance to compete at the state SkillsUSA Championships.

From left, Claire Hufnagel, 16, Allison Fender, 14, skills judge Jerry Olivier and Dylan Burress, 19, work on their four-port charging stations during the SkillsUSA Region 8 Championships held Friday at Durango High School. The students are from Bayfield High School.
Jerry McBride/Durango Herald

Sixty-two students from Bayfield, Dolores, Durango, Ignacio and Pagosa Springs high schools are involved in SkillsUSA, said Shaun Smith, a construction trades teacher at Durango High School and SkillsUSA Region 8 adviser.

SkillsUSA serves students and teachers who are preparing for or teaching students for a career in the trades, technical-skill occupations and skilled-service jobs, such as drafting. The program develops ties with private industry to offer internships and other training opportunities in a real-world environment.

Beyond improving trade and technical skills, the program aims to improve students' personal skills by improving their work ethics, speaking skills, planning and organizational skills and team-building skills.

Smith, who is one of five finalists for the national SkillsUSA Adviser of the Year award, said Region 8 has been growing, and one key has been developing partnerships with industry to offer kids opportunities.

Ties with local contractors and the Homebuilders Association of Southwest Colorado has been integral to improving the program in Southwest Colorado and to spark interest among students in a trades career, Smith said.

DHS students are building a tiny house with the assistance of the local homebuilders association, and along the way, they can get certified for plumbing, electrical, carpentry and dry-wall trades.

Another attraction to the trades, Smith said, is the looming shortage in skilled trades employees as the baby boomer generation retires.

Smith said the nation is facing a shortage of 2 million skilled trades workers in the construction field, and students involved in SkillsUSA are well-aware of the opportunities a career in the trades offers.

Allison Fender, 14, a freshman at Bayfield High School, took her first woodshop class in eighth grade and "absolutely loved it," she said.

Fender is examining a career in either nursing or carpentry. She said she has discovered - through her woodworking - that whatever career she pursues it will be something involving work with her hands.

Claire Hufnagel, 16, a sophomore at Bayfield High School, said she got into woodworking through her father.

"I watched him build things, and I wanted to try it, too," she said.

Until Fender joined woodworking classes at Bayfield High, Hufnagel said she had never taken a woodworking class with another girl.

Diego Valencia, 16, an Ignacio High School student, competes Friday in cabinet-making during the SkillsUSA Region 8 Championships held at Durango High School. Last year, Valencia, a baseball player, built his own baseball bat.
Jerry McBride/Durango Herald

Diego Valencia, 16, a sophomore at Ignacio High School, took advanced woodworking after falling in love with the shop while a freshman.

Valencia, a baseball player, said he's happy with the bat he made in woodworking.

"It's functional. I can really use it," he said.