Many high school students dream of careers in technical fields like welding and computer maintenance.

One program helping students realize that dream is the SkillsUSA competition held annually at Bay College in Escanaba. The competition allows the best and brightest to show what they have to offer.

“They showcase their skill set in their field of study,” said Bay College Dean of Business and Technology Mark Kinney. “So, we have judges from local employers and educational institutions who will monitor their work and score their work, and then we’ll actually award prizes at the end of the day, and five students can actually win a thousand dollar Bay College scholarship.”

Students at this competition are not only competing for scholarships; they’re also learning a lot of real world skills.

“It’s letting me see how other people work, and I somewhat knew what I was doing, but you know, after we were done, he kind of showed me what I was doing wrong, and in the end, (you) come out more knowledgeable,” said Michael Brandt, a Copper Country ISD student participating in the automotive competition.

“We see, generally from year to year, a big change between a junior and a senior because they’ve had the experience. So you know, that alone is probably experience as the finest educator,” Bay College automotive technology faculty instructor Mark Loman said.

“It really gives students a chance to shine and show, ‘this is what I’m able to do,’ and in some cases, not only could that lead to a scholarship that could further their studies at Bay, but it can also eventually lead to a job for them,” added Kinney.

Over one hundred fifty students from seven different Upper Peninsula schools attended this year’s competition. No matter which skill a student specializes in, hard work and practice are the keys to success.

“We get a print a month in advance, and then you just copy the print and do the print how it says to do it,” Gladstone welding student Lucian Burge said. “I probably did the print like six or seven times in the last week or so, so just make sure you don’t mess up on it.”

“These students really work hard at this. People wouldn’t realize how hard,” Bay College head welding instructor Peter Noblet said. “A lot of them have been training for a month solid for this competition. They take it very seriously. They really try hard. They really do.”