From left, East Mississippi Community College Welding & Fabrication Technology students Wyatt Enger, Jacob Willow, Chandler Little and Jack Smith each earned gold in the Mississippi SkillsUSA State Championships and will compete to the national championships. They are pictured here with EMCC Welding instructors Cliff Sanders, second from right, and Levi Linton, at far right.

April 25, 2024

Four East Mississippi Community College students enrolled in the Welding & Fabrication Technology program on the college’s Golden Triangle campus will compete in the National SkillsUSA Championships in Atlanta in June after earning top honors in the Mississippi SkillsUSA State Championships in Jackson earlier this month.

Chandler Little of Meridian, Jack Smith of Starkville and Jacob Williow of Hattiesburg earned gold medals in the Team Fabrication category at the state championships that took place April 2-4 at Mississippi Trademart Center in Jackson, while Wyatt Enger of Steens took first place in the singles category of Structural Welding. They competed against students from other community colleges in the state.

They will be among 6,000 state championship winners from colleges and universities across the nation to compete for gold, silver and bronze medals in 115 career technical categories in the National SkillsUSA Championships June 24-28 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. The event will be part of the annual National SkillsUSA National Leadership & Skills Conference, which takes place in conjunction with SkillsUSA TECHSPO, the largest technical education trade show in the nation. The annual event attracts more than 16,000 attendees each year.

“I don’t’ know what they are going to throw at us this year at nationals, but I know whatever it is these guys can handle it,” EMCC welding instructor Cliff Sanders said of the students.

For the team project at the state competition, Little, Smith and Willow, who are in Sanders’ welding class, had to construct a metal, woodburning chiminea within an allotted time that met specified criteria and weld guidelines. Each team competing in the event was given the same instructions.

“We were probably given six pages of blueprints to read through,” Willow said. “We had to fit it all up and see where everything went and weld it all together.”

Little said the project given to the teams was not an easy one, but he felt his team did well.

“We had practiced a lot, and we were prepared, so it wasn’t too bad,” Little said.

Smith agreed.East Mississippi Community College took home four gold medals in welding categories during the Mississippi SkillsUSA Championships and the students representing EMCC will advance to the national championships.

“We just did everything to the best of our abilities,” Smith said. “We took our time and confidently did what we know best from what Cliff taught us.”

Enger, whose welding instructor is Levi Linton, was given a L plate and, along with other competitors in the singles category, had to perform a set of defined tasks within a four-hour period.

“Within that time frame you had cutting with an oxy-fuel, and you also had hard wire, flux core, TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) and stick welding,” Enger said.

“I’m very proud of Wyatt,” Linton said. “We worked very hard every night. There is a lot of training and a lot of time under the (welding) hood.”

Both Sanders and Linton have experience at the SkillsUSA national championships. EMCC’s Welding & Fabrication Technology programs have been sending students to the competition for about seven years.

“Since we have been going to nationals, we have learned every step of the way and have gotten better and better,” Sanders said.

Linton is a graduate of EMCC’s welding program and was among students competing at the nationals in 2019 when he earned gold in the state championship and advanced to the nationals. Linton finished in the top 10 in the national competition.

“You pick up things here and there at the competition,” Linton said. “You might see a little trick that really saves some time or another that makes your welds look better. I learn something every year we do it.”

EMCC’s Automotive Technology program has produced national champions at the event in past years. Sanders, who is EMCC’s SkillsUSA representative, said he has approached other career technical departments at the college about competing in future events.

“We are going to try to show up in numbers to not only represent EMCC, but to show people how important the trade fields are these days,” Sanders said.

In addition to Linton, EMCC’s Welding & Fabrication program has had other top finishers at the nationals.

“We are getting closer and closer to our goal of being the best in the nation,” Sanders said.

EMCC has five welding instructors teaching out of two welding shops on the Golden Triangle campus and one welding shop at the Scooba campus.

Enger said he is looking forward to the national competition.

“I loved the state competition,” Enger said. “It got my blood pumping. I’m really happy about getting to go to Atlanta, first of all, and about getting to represent EMCC and compete against everyone else in the nation.”