For the second year in a row, North Thurston High School’s Natasha Weiss won the regional SkillsUSA welding competition Friday.
“My papa and my uncle both are master welders, so it’s just something that I took into interest,” said Weiss, 18, a senior at the Lacey school. “And now I love it.”
About 20 students from four high schools — North Thurston, Rainier and Elma high schools, and West Sound Technical Skills Center in Bremerton — participated in the daylong event at South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia.
“I would say, for high school-level, they did a fantastic job,” said Courtney Gilliam, president of the SPSCC Welding Club, which hosted the event. “I think some of the welds were beautiful.”
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Weiss, and second-place winner Shawn Green of West Sound Technical, will go on to compete at the state SkillsUSA competition April 27-29 in Yakima.
SkillsUSA is one of the largest student career and technical organizations in the country. It promotes job-readiness in technical, skilled and service occupations, and offers competitions in dozens of skills, from welding and automotive service to cosmetology and web design.
During Friday’s competition, students rotated through stations to demonstrate their knowledge of tungsten inert gas welding, shielded metal art welding, and dual-shield, solid wire and oxy/fuel cutting. They also took a knowledge test and heard from industry experts.
“I just want to let you guys know that not everyone can go to college,” Phil Evans with Local 86 Ironworkers told the students. “Apprenticeship is the original four-year degree.”
He said apprentices are making $26.34 an hour, without experience, and can work toward journey-level wages that are $42.50 an hour. Factor in overtime, and many welders make more than $100,000 a year, Evans said.
Evans told the students that one of the most important skills they can bring to the trades is a strong work ethic.
“There’s a lot of money to be made out there in the building trades; you just need to apply yourself,” Evans said.
Brock Young, 16, a sophomore at Rainier High School, took fourth place in the competition. He said he wishes more schools had participated in the event because it was educational.
“I learned a lot in the small amount of time we had, and I learned, like, what we need to work on for next year and stuff like that,” he said. “...Show up early. Don’t miss any days.”
Young said he’s interested in being a welder after high school. He said his favorite part about it is taking pieces of metal and creating something new, whether it’s a car or a dirt bike or a building.
“It’s ridiculous what you can do with welding,” Young said.
Top 5 finalists
First place: Natasha Weiss, North Thurston High School, Lacey
Second place: Shawn Green, West Sound Technical Skills Center, Bremerton
Third place: Cadan Kirkpatrick, North Thurston High School, Lacey
Fourth place: Brock Young, Rainier High School, Rainier
Fifth place: Levi Voight-Robinson, West Sound Technical Skills Center, Bremerton