2018 SkillsUSA

Lincoln Academy senior Ethan Burns (left), junior Nick Huber (center), and senior Colleen Kaplinger (right) won medals in the SkillsUSA trades competition in Bangor earlier this month.

Three Lincoln Academy students won medals in this year’s Maine SkillsUSA trade competition, which took place in early March.

Senior Ethan Burns won a gold medal in Courtesy Corps for the second year in a row, junior Nick Huber won a silver medal in Firefighting, and senior Colleen Kaplinger took bronze in Residential Construction. All three spend half days at Lincoln Academy taking academic classes and half days studying a chosen trade. Burns and Kaplinger attend the Bath Regional Career and Technical Center (BRCTC), and Huber studies Firefighting at the Mid-Coast School of Technology in Rockland (MCST).

According to their website, “the SkillsUSA Maine Championships is the state-level competition for high school and college students enrolled in trade, technical, and skilled service instructional programs, including allied health occupations.” This year’s competition took place in Bangor on March 1-2, with the conference theme “Champions at Work: Job Ready Day One.”

At the conference nearly 700 students from around Maine competed in more than 70 categories of trade competitions, including firefighting, video production, electrical construction wiring, technical drafting, wedding cake decorating, welding, early childhood education, and many more. The gold medalists from each trade have the opportunity to represent the State of Maine at the SkillsUSA National Championships in Louisville, KY in June.

“SkillsUSA provides our students with an opportunity to see the skills of students across the state who participate in the same vocational programs as they do,” said Katie Clark, who coordinates Applied Academics at BRCTC. “Not only are technical skills learned in our programs, but we also help students grow in the areas of work ethic and job site preparedness. The SkillsUSA organization prides itself on these elements. This event also encourages our students to take pride in their work and continue to persevere in their field of study.”

“Lincoln Academy students have a long history of excellence in the trades,” said Lincoln Academy Associate Head of School Andy Mullin. “This years’ medalists are demonstrating their commitment to their lives after LA. Their perseverance and learned skills will definitely benefit our greater communities, and we are extremely proud of them.”

Ethan Burns repeated as a gold medal winner in Courtesy Corps, which is the group of students that help with logistics at the competition itself, smoothing the way for the other events. “Ethan is a two-time winner, which is very unusual,” said Wayne Dorr, Students Services Coordinator at BRCTC. “Of all the competitions, Courtesy Corps is the most pressurized… Their tasks require detailed understanding of how this event is organized, as well as leadership skills. That is where Ethan really shines: he is a true leader.”

Burns, who plans to study criminal justice at Thomas College and become a police officer, said that two years in the Courtesy Corps competition have helped prepare him to “communicate and be helpful” during a complex event. He plans to travel to the national SkillsUSA finals in Kentucky this June to compete with other gold medalists from around the nation.

2018 was the first SkillsUSA competition for LA junior Nick Huber. He credits his instructor, Mike Drinkwater, with helping to prepare him to be successful in competition. “He brought evaulators into our class to help us practice the competition skills ahead of time,” he said. “We practiced things like physical agility and questions that might come up on the written test.” Huber plans to continue studying fire and rescue at the Mid-Coast School of Technology during his senior year, and eventually go on to professional firefighter and paramedic training after high school.

Senior Colleen Kaplinger earned a bronze medal in Residential Construction. Last year she came in seventh out of eight competitors in the same category, and that experience helped prepare her for this year’s competition. Kaplinger has been the only female in Residential Construction both years she has entered the competition, which she says is “nerve wracking. I feel like I have to prove that women can do this work, too,” she said.

Wayne Dorr described Colleen as a “remarkable young lady with excellent carpentry skills. When the boys aren’t sure what to do, the instructor sends them to Colleen.” One of the tasks in the SkillsUSA competition was building a stair form, and, Dorr said, “to watch her do that was like watching a brain surgeon…. Not only is she knowledgeable, but she has has an intuition about this field. She is also diligent in terms of solving a problem…Her mistake to productivity ratio is very low.”