Industrial skill propels students to achievements

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 23, 2002

They came. They built cabinets and wired boxes for electricity. They conquered.

At the beginning of April, five young men from Albert Lea won awards at a state competition sponsored by the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America. The team from Albert Lea High School actually swept one category &045; residential wiring &045; taking first, second and third places.

Two seniors took home first place awards: Zach Bowman, cabinetmaking, and Dustin Klukow, residential wiring and industrial. They will be going on to compete nationally at a meeting in Kansas City this June.

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Three juniors also won awards: Jon Possehl and Zach Christenson took second and third in the electrical wiring competition &045; completing the clean sweep for District 241 &045; and Brett Haase earned a second place in cabinetmaking.

The five are all students of Bill Webb, an industrial technology instructor at the high school. Webb sees a number of benefits in competitions like this one.

&uot;Most of these guys are going into a technical college after high school, and this shows them what others are doing around the state,&uot; Webb said. A competition shows them how they and their skills compare to other students, he said.

For the competition at the state level, the competitors had four hours to complete a series of tasks. In the cabinetmaking division, they had to create an accurate materials list from a set of plans, and then build as much of the cabinet as they could from the materials provided. Tools were also provided, but some students brought their own from home or from their classroom.

Brett Haase was a little nervous when the competition began.

&uot;I wasn’t sure about my chances at first,&uot; he said. But he was able to enjoy the experience anyway.

School isn’t the only place where Haase puts his woodworking skills to use. He has gotten additional practice with cabinetmaking outside of class working with his grandfather. Cabinetmaking probably won’t be his main vocation after high school, Haase said, but it’s something he will always be doing alongside other work.

The three students competing in the residential wiring division also had four hours to complete their assignments, but they were put in cubicles with a variety of different wall surfaces to work on. They had to completely wire the whole enclosure.

Both groups had to work completely on their own.

&uot;We couldn’t talk to anyone else or we were disqualifed,&uot; said Possehl.

Students were able to show off their skills at the competition, but they also learned some new things.

Klukow had to install wiring through sheetrock, which he hadn’t ever done before. Bowman had to work with plastic laminate countertops for the first time.

For Bowman and Klukow, competition at the national level will be more intense, involving a whole week’s worth of events. But it could also be potentially more rewarding. First place winners at the national level get full scholarships to the technical college of their choice. Klukow will only compete in residential wiring at the national level, because industrial safety isn’t a category.

Both young men are looking forward to the next level of competition as a fun way to gain more experience. Klukow is aiming for first place in his division, while Bowman has more modest expectations and is hoping to at least be among the top 15 participants.

&uot;We’ll do the best we can and try to have fun. It’s the experience that counts,&uot; said Klukow.

They attribute at least part of their personal success to the efforts of their teacher, Mr. Webb, and the school’s commitment to industrial technology courses.

&uot;We’re lucky to be at one of the few schools in the state that even offers a class like residential wiring,&uot; said Klukow, who plans on going on to Riverland to study more before he starts looking for work in the field.

When he’s not studying or getting ready for competitions, Bowman is also getting lots more experience as a carpenter. He’s completely redoing a room at his mother’s house, creating a new kitchen for her using his own designs and &045; mostly &045; using his own labor.

The state VICA competition was held in the Twin Cities on April 5-7, 2002. The students from Albert Lea went up with Webb and their advisor, Roger Hanson. Over one hundred high school students from around Minnesota participated in the competition, which also included separate competitions for technical and trade school students from colleges in the state.

The national competition will run from June 24-28 in Kansas City, and will involve students from all fifty states, all ten provinces in Canada and the territory of Guam.