SANTA FE, N.M. — Six students from Central New Mexico Community College returned to Albuquerque last month with bronze and silver medals and thousands of dollars’ worth of prizes from a national competition for career technical education students in Louisville, Ky.
Six thousand high school and college competitors, including 18 CNM students, as well as 15,000 spectators attended the 2015 National SkillsUSA Championships from June 22 to 28.
The event featured more than 100 competitions to test students’ skills in a variety of fields, including humanoid robotics, culinary arts and crime scene investigation. CNM students earned silver and bronze medals in the fields of industrial motor control, sheet metal, welding sculpture and welding fabrication.
CNM students who won silver medals at the national championships were Matt Martinez in industrial motor control and Adam Apodaca in the sheet metal competition. Chris Wood won a bronze medal in welding sculpture. A team of three CNM students — including Joshua Lucero, Brandon Woods and Kayle Miller — took the bronze medal in welding fabrication.
“I was so proud to be the president of CNM,” Kathie Winograd said. “I was proud to be part of a college that provides that kind of instruction, that truly leads to a job in the workforce of our community.”
Winograd, who made a special appearance in Kentucky at the national competition this year, said she can’t believe she has missed going in previous years.
Eighteen CNM students qualified for the national event by taking first place in the state SkillsUSA contests, where they competed against more than 700 students from across New Mexico.
Wood, 32, did not begin welding until last summer, but he returned from Kentucky with a bronze medal in welding sculpture.
“I’ve been in the automotive industry for close to 15 years, working on cars, working in automotive stores,” Wood said. “And there’s one thing that’s consistent and has been the root of all of it: welding.”
It took Wood, a welding major, five months to create his sculpture for the national competition in his field.
His sculpture, titled “A Family’s Promise,” is of a heart – his heart – held in the hands of his wife and children.
“Every day when I come home, my kids are always screaming and hollering ‘Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!'” Wood said. “Whenever I get down, my children are there to hold me up.”
As a result of his third-place title, Wood won two MIG welders at a combined value of $1,800, he said. He will be able to use them to do artwork, light fabrication and automotive work.
Like Wood, Martinez, 27, did not begin his trade, industrial motor control, until he was exposed to it at CNM.
To win his silver medal, Martinez excelled through three competitions in the industrial motor control field. First, he completed a written test with 50 questions over control circuits and the national electrical code. Then he built a circuit for an automatic carwash. Finally, he designed a circuit for filling and draining a tank that the city could use for flooding.
“I’m really passionate about this. I’ve been studying on my own even though I finished my degree at CNM,” he said. “I want to be ready for my next job.”
SkillsUSA works to improve the quality of the skilled workforce in New Mexico and in the United States, according to Sharon Gordon-Moffett, director of Service Learning and Skills USA at CNM.
“It really motivates them to stay in school, finish school, and that’s ultimately what we want, for them to graduate and get into the workforce,” she said.
Winograd said she saw a lot of recruiters from national companies at the competition talking to the students.
“It was hard for me, because I want the students to stay in New Mexico, work in New Mexico and become part of our economic growth,” she said. “It was sad, but I was proud that they were being scouted.”