BANGOR, Maine — As a welding instructor at the Caribou Regional Technology Center, Kevin Quist was particularly interested to see the results of the welding sculpture competition at this week’s SkillsUSA Maine annual state conference.
“They were really impressive,” Quist said of the pieces produced by students who participated in the competition. “I have always said welding is really an art. I’ve tried to encourage my students to produce art using the welding process. It gives the students a chance to be more creative.”
Welding sculpture was one of 66 events in which high school and college students competed for medals and prizes during the SkillsUSA Maine conference, which was held over three days at the Bangor Auditorium and Civic Center.
Quist, who serves as the college state director for SkillsUSA Maine, said 750 students and instructors from 28 schools, from Frenchville to Sanford, participated in the conference, which wrapped up Friday evening with an awards ceremony.
SkillsUSA is a national nonprofit organization that serves students who are preparing for a career in trade, technical or skilled service fields, such as health occupations.
“It’s really a chance for all our students to showcase their skills, whether they’re trade skills or leadership skills,” Quist said. “This is the ultimate place for students to show what they’ve learned. Our motto is: Prepare for leadership in the world of work. So we’re really training tomorrow’s leaders to go into the workplace.”
Maine’s gold medalists will compete in June at the SkillsUSA national contest in Kansas City, Mo. Winners can be awarded college credits or even full scholarships for a year.
“This is pretty high-stakes,” he said.
The welding sculpture category was new this year to SkillsUSA Maine, along with 911 dispatch and sustainability solutions.
Quist said the three-day event attracted one of the largest groups of participants since Maine’s competition started in 1986, despite the fact that statewide budget crunches could result in some programs being cut.
“It’s unfortunate, and we’re trying to find innovative ways to keep offering more and more to our students with less money,” Quist said.
Dylan Markie of Northern Penobscot Tech Center in Lincoln won the welding sculpture competition, Quist said after the awards ended.
For the full list of winners, go to www.skillsmaine.org. Results should be available by Monday.