Challenging skills

Students compete in Upper Peninsula CTE Skills Challenge

One of the entries in the Culinary Skills Challenge in Friday’s Upper Peninsula CTE Skills Challenge is a marinated chicken salad with a maple balsamic vinaigrette dressing. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — Career and technical education can involve automotive parts as well as water chestnuts wrapped in bacon.

High school students from across the Upper Peninsula gathered at Northern Michigan University’s Jacobetti Complex on Friday for the 2019 Upper Peninsula CTE Skills Challenge.

NMU hosted five student competitions beginning with the 13th annual Upper Peninsula High School Construction Skills Challenge, which brought construction trades students from high schools and career tech centers who worked in teams to build a multipurpose structure.

Jacob Chizek, a home-schooled student who competed for the Copper Country Intermediate School District, was one of the students competing in a challenge. In fact, he was one of the most successful participants for the day, winning the Automotive High School Skills Competition, which came with prizes of a gear wrench tool set and a rolling tool box.

Chizek enjoyed the parts identification segment of the competition the best.

“I thought that was the most fun because it was very challenging, but I feel like I was able to figure it out pretty well,” said Chizek, who plans to study mechanical engineering at Michigan Technological University.

Bob Wigman, a sales manager for Michigan and Wisconsin for Advance Auto Parts, said the students took part in a written test, with other competition areas including an inspection.

He believes competitive events such as the CTE Skills Challenge are beneficial.

“It’s always good to grade yourself against your peers and see how good you are,” Wigman said.

Other challenges took place in culinary skills, welding, and basic and advanced computer-aided drafting.

Throughout the day, CTE teachers were scheduled to participate in professional development sessions focused on best practices in safety, curriculum, instruction, and college and career preparation. They also had the opportunity to tour NMU’s facilities and a local construction project to view equipment and processes.

Many U.P. sponsors contribute financial support and material donations to make events such as the CTE Skills Challenge possible. A planning committee headed by Tony Retaskie, executive director of the Upper Peninsula Construction Council, and composed of local trades and business people, NMU administrators, instructors and students directed the event.

Many members of the trades served as judges during the competitions.

“For these students, this is the equivalent of the U.P. or state finals in athletics,” said Brian Sarvello, CTE director with the Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Service Agency, in a news release. “They work just as hard as any athlete in preparation for the event and take great pride in representing their school and community.”

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.