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Workforce competition highlights career options

Not every high school student will head to a four-year college after graduation, and the Career, Technical and Agricultural Education Workforce Showcase Competition highlights different career pathways.

About 200 students participated in the third CTAE competition Dec. 10 at the Columbia County Sheriff’s Complex multipurpose facility.

“When we started the workforce showcase, we wanted to impact the county and community as a whole,” said Leanne Reece, the director of internal affairs for Columbia County, one of the event sponsors. “I am a huge supporter of technical schools because not all kids want to go to a four-year college, and we need skills in this area.”

The first competition had only one focus area — automotives. But the competition has expanded, and on Saturday, students competed in a variety of areas such as law enforcement, culinary, fire science, engineering, ROTC and welding.

Students participate in law enforcement situations during the tactical competition. Photo by Maxwell Shaffer

“When we had the automotive competitions two years ago, it was so successful that we expanded it to all the pathways’ programs,” said Reece. “It has just taken off, and the showcase has become very successful.”

Lt. Col. Samson Sider, JROTC instructor at Harlem High School, said events such as this expands students’ visions.

“When the students get to see the other students and see how many people are doing it they realize it isn’t just us, there are a lot of other students doing it with us,” Sider said. “They only see each other during the week in small groups, so when they see how big it is, they know this is the place to be.”

Not only did the event have opportunities to help students decide what they wanted to do further down the road, but it helped students who are struggling in other ways, such as making connections with each other and becoming friends.

They tend to forge bonds at competitions, he said.

“After the competitions, you will see all the kids hanging out with one another because those students will be in the same classrooms together,” Sider said.

During the competitions not only were the students showcasing their skills for their parents and the judges, but also for the companies in attendance. There were tables set up all around the competitions during specific events such as the automotive event with companies looking for their next employees.

Students compete in the automotive portion of the competition. Photo by Maxwell Shaffer

“We love to see kids getting involved in the trades and people that want to work with their hands, and they get to see the great opportunities available,” said Donald Kelly with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1579, “I don’t think all the student know about these opportunities, but the answer isn’t always college, and I am glad to see that Columbia county is taking that approach because there is a shortage of skilled workers.”

Autumn Weathers, an Evans High School student, participated in the automotives event.

“When my dad first told me to join his class, I fell in love with automotives not only because he was my dad and he taught me how to do maintenance. But then I looked at his program and I wanted to do it and work on cars because I wanted to be like him,” said Weathers, “This event gives me an idea of how the workforce will be when I start to join it and get more experience and in the end. It just opens up an opportunity for me.”

Other sponsors included the Columbia County School District, Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and Columbia County Chamber Foundation.

Maxwell Shaffer is an Augusta University student and features correspondent for Augusta Good News.