• 43°

Students converge on fairgrounds to show off trade skills

SALISBURY — George Smith’s strategy on Saturday morning was simple — build fast and be careful.

Smith, a Junior at Carson High School, was set to compete in the masonry tender competition at the third-annual Skills Rowan Competition, organized by Rowan-Salisbury Schools. For those unfamiliar, Smith described the competition as setting up to build a house. And it would be critical to work as a team, he said.

“I think the top time last year was something like one minute and 53 seconds,” Smith said. “You’ve got to move fast but you’ve got to be careful.”

Dylan Pratt, a West Rowan High School freshman competing in one of the masonry competitions, said he didn’t have a particular strategy.

“You just have to do it the way you know how,” Pratt said.

Unlike Smith’s competition, Pratt would have a two-hour time limit to replicate a brick structure with brick and mortar.

Smith and Pratt were among the dozens of students from near and far who converged on the Rowan County Fairgrounds Saturday for the competition. Organizers said teams traveled from as far away as Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks. There were competitors from Columbus County, in eastern North Carolina; Lee County, near Raleigh; and Rowan’s southern neighbor, Stanly County, too.

All told, there were 20 schools and nine school districts represented Saturday, said Rowan-Salisbury Schools Career and Technical Education Director Mandy Mills.

“Parents all over send their kids to play sports every weekend, and the kids here may or may not be athletes, but if we we’re sending our kids to do stuff like this every weekend, maybe we wouldn’t have the skills gap in our workforce,” Mills said.

Mills was referring to an oft-cited problem of businesses being unable to fill open positions because of a lack of qualified applicants. Particularly relevant to Saturday’s event are careers that require employees to be skilled in a trade in the construction field. Parents, teachers and employers alike on Saturday said it’s tough to find young people interested in a trade such as masonry or construction.

On one side of the fairgrounds, teams of two were hard at work building one floor and one wall. They had a four-hour time limit to do so.

On another end, individual students were arranged in four long, single-file lines, carefully replicating a structure of brick, mortar and cinderblocks.

Representatives from local businesses were among the crowd of onlookers, perhaps hoping to scout talent. A mini job fair was scheduled during Saturday’s event for those looking for paying work. Companies from Gates Construction to Johnson Concrete signed on as sponsors of Saturday’s event.

Notably, those finishing at the top of the pack on Saturday also received a cash prize, with the amount varying based on the type of competition and placement. The top finisher in the masonry two competition, for example, received a cash prize of $1,000.

West Rowan freshman Anderson Pruett was among those Saturday who, at 15, already had a paying job. Pruett said he is paid $10 per hour in his job with a local masonry company. And Pruett said he’s planning to stay in the field following high school graduation.

Not everybody is meant to go to college and that’s OK, said Tina Fesperman and husband Heath, who were watching their son Ethan compete Saturday.

“College is just pushed so much on students in schools, and I feel like they should know there’s another good option,” he said. “This (event) shows there’s another way to make money besides a four- or eight-year degree.”

Contact editor Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4248.

Comments

Elections

Republicans on defense in state congressional races

Coronavirus

As officials face second wave of COVID-19, some resisting steps to curb virus

Business

Biz Roundup: Spalding wins state Executive of the Year award for work as Chamber president

Coronavirus

State health officials ease shutdown for church that had 181 COVID-19 cases

News

South Carolina tribe presents casino plan for Kings Mountain

News

Rockingham County ordered to reopen voting site

Racing

Michael Jordan’s NASCAR team partners with Joe Gibbs, Toyota

News

Zeta-caused landslide creates 90-mile detour in Mitchell, McDowell counties

BREAKING NEWS

Rowan County banking icon and community catalyst Paul Fisher dies

Coronavirus

State reports 20 COVID-19 cases at Rockwell Christian School, outbreak at Brightmoor Nursing Center

China Grove

Southern Rowan Christmas Parade to go on with COVID-19 safety measures in place

Local

Cress named Rowan County Emergency Services chief

Crime

Blotter: Two vehicles stolen after being left running

Nation/World

Six dead as Zeta soaks Gulf Coast and Southeast

Elections

Black Lives Matter signs will remain up at Carrboro polling site

Nation/World

Hackers snag $2.3 million from Wisconsin Republican Party

China Grove

In Senate race, Ford doubles cash on hand; Townsend spends $10,000 in House campaign

Elections

Two who attended rally for Trump in Gastonia test positive for COVID-19

Elections

Storm hinders Tillis events; Cunningham campaign activities remain quiet

Local

Trump-supporting organization to have downtown ‘Trump Train Parade’

Local

Spencer planning Christmas festivities for Dec. 12

Crime

Blotter: Rockwell man charged with removing electronic ankle monitor

Coronavirus

County’s rate of tests returning positive continues to decrease, still above 7%

BREAKING NEWS

UPDATED: Three charged in connection with drive-by shooting, vehicle pursuit