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Local high schools competing in skilled trade competition

Winner will represent Wis. in national competition
Posted at 6:41 PM, Feb 16, 2018

This weekend at Wisconsin State Fair Park, the Milwaukee National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) is hosting the Spring Home Improvement Show. 

In the midst of all of the exhibits showing how to improve your home, there will be some kids who may be the ones doing the work on your home in the future. In conjunction with Skills USA, the Teamworks competition has eight schools participating to be the best in a skilled trade driven project. 

The four-person teams have two days to erect a structure with walls, doors, steps, electrical and plumbing work all by hand. It's an intensive crash course into what they will see in the real world should they pursue the skilled trades.

"What we have behind us, we've got Wisconsin's future workforce in action," Brent Kindred, State Director of Skills USA Wisconsin said. "The biggest quality you find out of the team that wins is teamwork just like they'll have to do on a job site."

In a world with skyrocketing student loans, some students are choosing an alternate route as opposed to the traditional, 4-year college degree. Also, this gives them a chance to get right into the workforce when they graduate high school in June.

"After high school, I want to go into a trade and this is the foot in the door for me," Connor Risberg, a senior at New Berlin High School said. "Meeting all the people in the trade and showing off what I can do."

Risberg thought going to a traditional 4-year college was for him but realized he wanted to do something where he used his hands daily.

 "I decided I wanted to do a skilled trade because I didn't want to sit behind a desk all day," Risberg said.

The competition has 44 students involved. Risberg is a part of the majority as one of 41 young men. However, while their number is small, the young women are holding equal weight. 

"It feels special to me," Melanie Pitrof, senior at Slinger High School said. "I feel special when I'm here and there are only two other girls here."

Pitrof says her father is a plumber and that has motivated her to go into a skilled trade. She took his advice to go into electrical work because of the strain he's had on his back as a plumber.

His advice goes toward a moving trend of women getting into the male-dominated skilled trades. 

"Why does it have to be a guy thing?" Pitrof said. "I'm just as strong as these guys. I'm just as smart as these guys. We're all just humans. We're all just doing the same work. It doesn't matter if a girl does it. It doesn't matter if a guy does it."

"These young ladies are very much involved," Randy Miller, Chair of the Milwaukee NARI Spring Home Improvement Show said. "It's awesome to see both genders together working on projects."

One winner will be chosen from the eleven teams participating in the competition. They will go on to represent Wisconsin in the national Skills USA competition in Louisville in late June.