UVCC welcomes Shelby County students for trades competition


By Amantha Garpiel

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PIQUA — Eighth-grade students from nine Shelby County schools competed in the Ninja Madness Finals at the Upper Valley Career Center on Tuesday, March 7.

There were a total of 54 eighth-grade students from Anna, Botkins, Fairlawn, Fort Loramie, Holy Angels, Houston, Jackson Center, Russia and Sidney Middle School competing in Tuesday’s event. The Ninja Madness Finals is the last competition in the Ninja Skilled Trades Challenge season. The competitions began in November of 2022 with more than 800 Shelby County students competing in individual district contests. For the Ninja Madness Finals, each district sent the top three boys and top three girls from the district competitions to compete at the county level.

Sponsored by Workforce Partnership of Shelby County, Area Energy & Electric Inc., Ferguson Construction Company, Slagel Mechanical Contractors and the Upper Valley Career Center, the Ninja Skilled Trades Challenge helps eighth-grade students from Shelby County practice with the tools of construction and other skilled trades to help the students learn valuable skills and prepare for a potential future career in a skilled trade.

“They (Slagel Mechanical) were sponsoring this before I got started. I mean, Slagel’s been a sponsor for the Ninja course for the last five or six year. Slagel’s very active with the Workforce Partnership,” said Greg Dickman, HR coordinator for Slagel Mechanical Contractors. “We see it as a great opportunity to introduce kids to skilled trades, especially at a young age. It’s just an opportunity for them to learn some of the different job opportunities that are out there after graduation.”

“This is the best of the best coming here today,” said Workforce Partnership Director Deb McDermott. “This is meant to, one, expose the students to skilled trades and tools, because lots of the kids have never touched a drill. And then with the career center here, it’s sort of our recruitment. Like, if kids find that their interested in this, that there’s a pathway to a lot of these types of careers at the Upper Valley Career Center, and these are companies (the sponsors) that obviously recruit those types of employees.”

According to McDermott, this is the first year that the event has had more than just a few parents attending.

“We’ve started small and it’s growing,” said McDermott. “It’s kind of exciting to see the parents, like, catching on.”

The competition consisted of two students going head-to-head in a race to complete six trade-related tasks such as successfully using an impact drill, measuring a block of wood, hammering in a nail, using a screwdriver and putting together PVC plumbing. The contest was done in a bracket, eliminating competitors each round until the fastest, successful competitor remains.

The top three from both the girls and boys competitions are: in first place, Samuel Philpot, Russia, and Faith Long, Sidney Middle School; in second place, Caleb Holthaus, Holy Angels, and Amelie Phillips, Fairlawn; in third place, Kolton Hengstler, Anna, and Ava Denise, Fairlawn.

“It feels nice. I came in thinking I wasn’t going to win the first round and ended up winning the whole thing,” said Faith, first place winner of the girls competition.

“It feels great,” said Samuel, boys first place winner, when asked how it feels to win first place in the county-wide contest.

After the individual competition, each school team competed together against another school team. The team competition winner was the team from Anna; Kolton Hengstler, Dawson Howell, Brooke Klosterman, Melanie Kranenburg, Ciara Meyer and Julian Stearns.

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