MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Students from across the Upper Peninsula interested in a career in vocational trades met on Friday at the Jacobetti Complex on Northern Michigan University’s campus to showcase their talents in construction, welding and computer aided drafting.

U.P. high schools fielded 12 teams to compete in this year’s 2022 Construction Skills Challenge put on by state and local officials, and building trade organizations. Students competed in various disciplines and were given awards for the best and the brightest in a variety of areas. It was more than hammers and nails, students were judged on how well they worked as a team, took direction and followed plans and blueprints.

“The small construction project that the students are competing against is a creation of a chicken coop with the following of some blueprints,” said Dr. John Centko, NMU Technology and Occupational Sciences. “And written directions on how to do the assembly, and what their really working at is how to work as a team.”

The need for vocational training close to home is important to the vitality and growth of our area. With an aging workforce and a rising demand for those in skilled trades, vocational education offers a very real alternative to traditional higher education. With more immediate job placement and reduced or eliminated student debt, a career in construction has broad appeal to those wanting to join the workforce now, rather than attend a four year university.

“While those skills are really necessary, we are really lacking in this economy those who are skilled at trades,” said Walker Hill, Houghton High School.

“Getting a solid education that has a transportable skill set that’s not out-sourced is a huge benefit to any graduate,” said Dr. Centko.

“That way, I don’t have any tuition to pay, any restrictions or student loans to pay back,” said Mahatma Owens, Gwinn High School.

To meet the growing need for skilled construction workers and construction managers, the Jacobetti Complex is well poised to produce a highly skilled workforce close to home. Something local legislators have been striving for years.

“Students who choose to go into a skilled trade program like they have at Jacobetti, your chance to get out and get a job right away is almost 100-percent,” said State Rep. Sara Cambensy, (D) 109th District.

The U.P. Skills Challenge is a yearly event that promises to evolve with the ever changing technology of the construction industry and continue to showcase the builders of tomorrow.