Josh Daniel (left) and Jake Slusher present awards at the MCHS Trades Fair and Skills Showcase.

With the SkillsUSA State Championships – organized this year as a hands-on remote event, due to ongoing Covid-related concerns – approaching for Georgia high school and technical college students, Madison County High School Construction Teacher Jake Slusher gave his classes a choice.

“I asked my students, ‘Do you want to compete in the SkillsUSA state contests or do you want to try a hands-on competition that will be in-house?’” Slusher said. “They decided they wanted do it in-house. They practiced hard to get ready, even talked a little trash to each other.”

Slusher, along with Agricultural Mechanics Instructor Josh Daniel and WBL Program Coordinator Sarah Waldrop, worked with 12 local companies and CEFGA to organize the March 24 event, which they called the MCHS Trades Fair and Skills Showcase. It was held at the Danielsville school’s Broad River College and Career Academy.

A Madison County student puts the finishing touches on his entry in the welding contest.

Twenty-seven students, including one from nearby Hart County Career Academy, competed in cabinetry, electrical, carpentry, plumbing and welding contests, and discussed career opportunities with company representatives. For prizes, contest winners received tools donated by the industry partners. After visiting with employers at the trades fair, some students went a step further and met for one-on-one interviews.

“The jobs are plentiful,” Slusher said of the demand for skilled labor in northeast Georgia. “Employers are always asking if I have students [who want to work], and I send them as many as I can. The biggest challenge is getting the kids here. If I can get them in my class and they start building, they find a new love for working with their hands, and then I can get them into industry and into a career that they can enjoy.”

Slusher’s program currently includes classes in carpentry, electrical, plumbing and masonry. Next year, he said, HVAC and welding will replace masonry, because there is more demand from students and employers in those disciplines.

As with the statewide remote hands-on SkillsUSA contests, the Madison County event gave students hungry for competition a chance to test their skills against one another. Many of them missed that opportunity in 2020 when Covid-19 forced the conventional SkillsUSA Championships to be cancelled and left organizers scrambling to create a virtual competition that had no hands-on component.

For welding student Austin Brown, who made the 30-mile trip with his instructor, Mike Carey, from their home base at Hart County College and Career Academy, the Madison County contest was his first attempt at competition – and he placed first.

At the awards ceremony that concluded the event, cheers and high-fives abounded as the excited group of teenagers celebrated one another’s victories.

“Most of them have the same classes,” Slusher said, “so there was a lot of camaraderie with them working together, and it was fun to watch.”


From left, Hart County College and Career Academy Instructor Mike Carey; Austin Brown, winner of the MCHS welding contest; and Austin’s father, Ryan.


  • 1st: Jacob Torres-Vences
  • 2nd: Andres Bustamante
  • 3rd: Jose Mireles


  • 1st: Jace Jachimski
  • 2nd: Ashton Hill
  • 3rd: Aiden Moore


  • 1st: David Huff
  • 2nd: Chase Pearson
  • 3rd: Jake Scarboro


  • 1st: Ryan Nunley
  • 2nd: Htoo Minn
  • 3rd: Jesse Williamson-Laduke


  • 1st: Austin Brown
  • 2nd: Jacob Thompson
  • 3rd: James Hancock

Industry Participation

  • Ash Electric
  • RAI
  • IMI
  • Carroll Daniel Construction
  • Jordan Air
  • Stanfield Air
  • Webber-Coleman Woodworks
  • Beam and Associates
  • Lincoln Electric
  • Caterpillar
  • Kubota
  • Evergreen Packaging

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