Two high school students from Western New York are preparing for a national skilled labor competition. The SkillsUSA Championships pits the most talented high school and college students against each other in a wide variety of contests testing skills from a wide variety of skilled trades.
Max Northem, a senior at Alden High School, and Owen Haines, a junior at Lancaster High School, both participate in technical programs through Erie 1 BOCES.
Northem is in the auto collision program and Haines is in the building trades program at Harkness Career and Technical Center.
The two students both took home top prize at the state competition in April. Northem winning gold in auto refinishing, Haines in cabinetmaking. The first place finishes resulted in invitations to the national competition.
"I've been doing stuff like this since I could ever hold a hammer or do anything to help out," Haines explained. "It just comes natural to me and I just love doing it."
"I thought it would be cool to come in and learn to do something and be like, wow I fixed that myself," Northem said. "With the end result, it's cool to see from start to finish that I was able to do something."
Haines plans to attend college for construction management after graduating high school. Northem will join the workforce after high school.
According to Erie 1 BOCES, 97 percent of students in these career and technical programs attend college, pursue employment or join the military after completion. Sixty-two percent attend post-secondary education. Fifty-seven percent report working in the CTE field after graduating.
SkillsUSA is an organization that works with students, teachers and industry leaders to ensure America has a skilled workforce. The championships are being held June 25-29 in Louisville, Kentucky.