PEARL, Miss. – Winona Career and Technical Center and Ingalls Shipbuilder Academy are statewide winners in the first-ever Building Futures Construction Competition.

Organized by the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation, the competition invited Mississippi CTE construction and manufacturing programs for grades 9-12 to build projects of their choice using wood or metal. Entries were judged during the recent MCEF SkillsUSA State Competition at the Mississippi Trade Mart in Jackson.

“The competition was a celebration of the many ways modern CTE programs are preparing students for stable, rewarding futures,” said MCEF President Mike Barkett. “Participants came together to tackle the challenge of imagining something and then taking steps to create it. It was an unbelievable experience to watch these groups in action.”

Taking top honors in the metal division was Winona Career and Technical Center under the direction of instructor Greg Wenger. Comprised of first-year welding students Rhett Oliver, Jacob Brannon and Junior Cordell, the team created a semi tractor fire pit that wowed judges.

Targeting uniqueness and difficulty, the team incorporated an array of features that include doors for users to add wood from either side and stack pipes that run to the upper cab where smoke is exhausted to make it appear as if the truck is actually running. Fuel tanks serve as the perfect storage for extra wood while wheels made of rolling metal are affixed to a pipe that enable the truck to roll.

Winning first place in the wood division was Ingalls Shipbuilder Academy. Participants included Caleb Knott, Drake Killingsworth, Cody Duncan, Remington Huckaba and James Stevens.

Led by instructors Glenn Seymour and Pete Deshauteurs, the group custom designed a Desco shrimp boat to represent the life and history of the Mississippi Gulf Coast while honoring the fishing industry that inspired the project with its original shipbuilding. Constructed completely from wood to resemble an actual shrimp boat, the impressive design measures 1.5 feet wide by 4 feet long by 3 feet high.

Both entries employed a remarkable blend of creativity, imagination and teamwork. For their work, the winning teams were awarded $1,000 cash prizes for their school programs.

The competition coincides with MCEF’s Trade Up! awareness campaign to promote the long-term advantages of modern CTE programs. Trade Up! highlights the fact that CTE is becoming the preferred route to career and college success for a growing number of Mississippi students.

“Modern CTE programs provide a solid foundation for the future,” Barkett said. “Students can complete industry-based certification programs and go to work after they graduate or use their specialized training to get a head start on college degrees. In the meantime, they’re exposed to cutting-edge technologies that are highly valued in the job market.”

Professional trades are among the highest-paying and fastest-growing jobs in the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction occupations are projected to grow 11 percent through 2026. The BLS also reports that nearly 200,000 construction jobs in the U.S. were unfilled at the start of 2018 — a trend that’s being felt in Mississippi.

“By 2020, Mississippi will need more than 80,000 craft professionals to meet the needs of the state’s growing construction industry,” Barkett said. “MCEF is working to ensure that students throughout Mississippi have access to high-quality training programs that will prepare them to pursue career opportunities in construction and other growing industries.”

The mission of the non-profit MCEF is to promote careers, recruit capable individuals and train a quality workforce for the construction and manufacturing industries in the state of Mississippi. MCEF also offers workforce training and credentialing in construction, industrial maintenance and manufacturing trades.