Thirty-four area high school students — including some from Texas County — participated in the first-ever welding contest hosted April 8, by Missouri State University-West Plains’ (MSU-WP) workforce development office.

The juniors and seniors represented Koshkonong, Houston, Licking, Summersville, Thayer and Willow Springs school districts, with several attending Piney River Technical Center and South Central Career Center. The contest took place at the Greater Ozarks Center for Advanced Technology (GOCAT).

 “Our first annual welding competition was a great success,” said Sheila Barton, director of workforce development at MSU-WP. “This event supports our high school and vocational students by providing them with the opportunity to prepare for the future and fund their education.”

 “Overall, I believe this turned out to be an excellent event,” added Roy Crouch, education and employment specialist and coordinator of the event. “I was extremely pleased with the support and participation from schools and businesses as far away as Licking.

Winners in the introductory level of Missouri State University-West Plains’ (MSU-WP) first ever welding competition were, from right: Canaan Miller, Koshkonong, first; Casey Huff, Licking, second; and Dalton Nicholson, Thayer, third place. Each won a scholarship, trophy and other prizes. The winners are congratulated by MSU-WP Dean of Academic Affairs Dr. Michael Orf, left. (MSU-WP photo)

 “Also, our current students in the Terry L. ‘Bo’ Pace Welding and Advanced Fabrication Program did a tremendous job assisting before, during and after the event,” Crouch added.

The competition included introductory, intermediate and advanced levels. Each level tested students in three areas – a welding written test, a fabrication (blueprint reading) written test, and hands-on welding tests.

The students were provided instructions on the types of welds that were required and judged on 10 specific areas, including the weld process, joint and position.

Scholarship prizes in the amounts of $1,000, $750 and $500 were awarded to the top three finishers, respectively, in each level.

Winners in the introductory level contest were Canaan Miller, Koshkonong, first place; Casey Huff, Licking, second; and Dalton Nicholson, Thayer, third.

Dakota James scored the highest of everyone in the written portion. He received a new welding hood.

Winners in the intermediate level contest were Thomas Morin, Summersville, first; Elijah Ullom, Licking, second; and Danny Venable, Houston, third.

Winners in the advanced level competition were Nolan Smith, Willow Springs, first; Jarvis Bowers, Thayer, second; and Jake Rhoades, Thayer, third.

In addition to the scholarships, the winners received a trophy, welding helmet, welding sleeves, a Black and Decker grinder, welding safety glasses and welding goggles.

All contest participants received prizes, including welding gloves, welding beanies, earmuffs, tape measures, rod bags, brushes, hammers, pliers, welding sleeves and more.

Dakota James, a Houston student, scored highest in the written portion and received a new welding hood.

Prizes were donated by Airgas, Brocaw Bearing and Industrial Supply, and Westlake Ace Hardware. Other sponsors included The Steel Yard, Community First Banking Company, West Plains Bank & Trust Company, Simmons Bank, Newberry Sales, L&R Industries, Leonardo DRS and Caterpillar.

Chuck Cook, welding and fabrication instructor at MSU-WP, said he was impressed with the skills displayed by the participants and their readiness to compete, and that it was apparent they had been taught well in their high school or vocational programs.

 “The level of participation was encouraging and shows the future of the welding industry,” Cook said. “There is a need for skilled trades, and each of these students will have an opportunity to learn new skills and have a career in the welding/fabrication industry.”

The contest gave participants a chance to visit representatives from MSU-WP’s admissions, financial aid and veterans services offices, as well as from the Missouri Job Center. They also learned more about MSU-WP’s technology programs and careers in welding.

Participants and their advisers said the contest was well prepared and organized, and they appreciated their interactions with the various representatives from MSU-WP. They also said they were impressed with the prizes given at this first event.

 “The kids really enjoyed the event, and I was impressed with how smoothly it went, since this was the first time MSU-WP has hosted an event like this,” said Adam Vandiver, welding instructor at Piney River Technical Center in Houston. “My students liked talking to the current MSU-WP welding students who were working the event. We can’t wait to come back.”

For more information about the welding contest or the technical programs offered by MSU-WP’s workforce development office at GOCAT, contact Barton 417-255-7784 or email

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