By Ben Clark
Opinion/Features Â Editor
Cuestaâ€™s welding program won gold at this yearâ€™s National SkillsUSA competition in Kentucky, making this the sixth consecutive year that Cuesta students have placed in the top three on the National podium.
â€œWe [the department] really got it going onâ€ said Michael Fontes, the teamâ€™s advisor and Cuesta Welding Â Technology instructor for 24 years.
This yearâ€™s SkillsUSA National Competition was a multi-million-dollar event that ran from June 20 to the 24, and occupied a space equivalent to 16 football fields. There were more than 6,000 contestants in 100 separate events representing nearly every trade, from bakers to diesel mechanics. Nearly 1,500 judges and contest organizers made the national event possible. While Cuesta students competed in several disciplines, it was the welding/fabrication team that stole the show. Â
The welding/fabrication team included Joey Grant from Atascadero, Will Dexter from Half Moon Bay, and Trevor Poindexter from San Luis Obispo; all of whom are in their final semesters of getting an Associates degree in the Welding Technology program. This yearâ€™s challenge was to design and build a large steel tool box in less than 6 hours with a set amount of materials. The teamâ€™s final score was based on the quality of the build, their ability to work as a team, and how efficiently they used their materials.
The cost of the teamâ€™s two trips, first to San Diego, California for the state championship, and then to Louisville, Kentucky for the National, was mostly covered by generous donations from local businesses involved in the welding industry.
This community support reflects SkillsUSAâ€™s mission: â€œ[…] to be a partnership of students, teachers, and industry representatives working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce.â€
Skilled workers are exactly what American businesses are asking for. Something John Stokes is very aware of, as Division Chair of Cuestaâ€™s Engineering and Technology department, and Region Two SkillsUSA representative. Stokes looks to use the close connection SkillsUSA has with the trade industry as well as the competitive nature that drives students to excel beyond expectation to offer excellent job training.
â€œSkillsUSA builds competitors with strong character, consequently making them better employees,â€ Stokes concluded.
Saying to people that Cuesta has a great welding program is one thing, but going out and proving it is even better.
This is why Fontes vows, â€œWe will weld on!â€