Local students compete at SkillsUSA Championships

Friday, July 6, 2018
Kelby Howerton (second from right) of Berryville was one of five North Arkansas College students who competed at the SkillsUSA Championships in Louisville, Ky., this June. Howerton was awarded a Skill Point Certificate in Cabinetmaking.
Submitted photo

Two Carroll County students competed among the best career and technical students in the country at the 2018 SkillsUSA Championships held in Louisville, Ky., on June 27 and 28.

Eureka Springs High School student Cole Rains was awarded the high school bronze medal and a Skill Point Certificate in Masonry.

Kelby Howerton of Berryville, a student at North Arkansas College in Harrison, was awarded a Skill Point Certificate in cabinet-making.

A press release from SkillsUsa says more than 6,300 students competed at the national showcase of career and technical education. The SkillsUSA Championships is the largest skill competition in the world, it says, and covers 1.4 million square feet, equivalent to 20 football fields or 25 acres.

The release says students were invited to the event to demonstrate their technical skills, workplace skills and personal skills in 102 hands-on occupational and leadership competitions including robotics, automotive technology, drafting, criminal justice, aviation maintenance and public speaking. It says industry leaders from 600 businesses, corporations, trade associations and unions planned the standards for entry-level workers and evaluated the contestants against them.

Skill Point Certificates were awarded in 72 occupational and leadership areas to students who met a predetermined threshold score in their competition as defined by industry, the release says. The Skill Point Certificate is a component of SkillUSA’s assessment program for career and technical education.

Howerton said he qualified for the SkillsUSA Championships after winning first place in cabinet-making at the state level of the competition in Hot Springs.

“I won first at Hot Springs, and the only person who gets to go to nationals in Louisville is first place,” he said. “I didn’t know how to feel because it made me number one in the state in cabinet-making. It was kind of overwhelming that I got to go compete with some of the best students in the United States.”

He said the number one student in cabinet-making from every state, including territories like Puerto Rico, competed in his category at nationals.

“You’re competing against all the top people in the United States,” Howerton said. “It was a privilege just to go. It was a pretty tough competition, but it was a great experience.”

He said the competition was intimidating at first.

“After you calmed down and got your nerves managed, it was pretty fun,” Howerton said. “You got to interact with people from California to New York and see everybody’s different techniques on how to build cabinets and stuff.”

Howerton said the students also got tips from some professional cabinet-makers.

“It was a good learning experience,” he said. “You had some of the top cabinet-makers there, older guys who have had their whole lives to build cabinets. They were there judging and helped us out and showed us how to do stuff.”

Howerton said he first got interested in cabinet-making when he was a student at Berryville High School.

“In high school at Berryville, I was in the wood shop for a few years,” he said. “That’s why I started to get a knack for woodworking and carpentry. Then this last year, I went to college at NAC for construction tech. We did electrical wiring, carpentry and things like framing up a house.”

One of the projects, he said, was constructing a tiny house.

“We did that and built all the cabinets for the tiny house,” he said. “I started to get a knack for it, and the instructor there said he wanted me and this other kid to go compete. He said ‘I think you would do good in cabinet-making,’ so I went and did it because it’s something I like doing.”

Howerton said he’s already applying his woodworking and carpentry skills outside of the classroom.

“My buddy and I are starting our own little business doing carpentry work, woodworking and building cabinets,” he said. “We’ve built a few decks for people, too. By the end of this year, I expect to have my own business. We’re already in the process of getting it set up.”

Howerton continued, “My buddy is from Yellville, and we’re going to do everything from Berryville to Yellville. With small towns, we’ll always stay busy. We have jobs we can’t even get to right now. We’ve had to turn them down because of school and stuff.”

He said he plans to compete in SkillsUSA again next year.

“I plan on going back to Hot Springs next year,” Howerton said. “I may do cabinet-making again, or I may do carpentry, where you frame up an exterior wall of a house and put siding on it. If I get first place, I’ll probably go back to nationals and compete there again.”

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