Vocational training, like that offered as part of the Air and Heating Vocational program at CHS, offers students a route to gain valuable skills for the workforce that allow them to get a job directly out of high school. For Jacob Swank, it also gives him a bit of bragging rights.
Swank finished fifth in the sheet metal fabrication contest at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference. The conference brings together almost 20,000 students, teachers, professionals and companies to highlight career and technical education.
As part of the conference, which ran from June 24-28, SkillsUSA puts on skills competitions in a wide variety of fields and skills. This year featured 103 different skills contests, from 3-D Visualization and Animation to Nail Care to Welding Fabrication and everything in between. For Jacob, he found his calling in the sheet metal fabrication contest.
Swank explained how he got his start in sheet metal and the HVAC program, saying, “My sister told me to do it because they make good money, and I got in to sheet metal working from a summer I spent working in the shop at Commercial Air in Lebanon.”
From there, Swank says his teacher, Mark Garing, helped steer him towards the SkillsUSA competitions. “Mr. Garing told me about it, he used to send people for different competitions and he mentioned the sheet metal competition and I did it. I was the only one in my class to go,” he said.
As for how he felt after getting fifth, Swank revealed his true competitive side. “Well,” he started, “I was kind of disappointed I didn’t get first, second, or third. I know what I messed up and how to fix it. In all reality though, it feels pretty good, like something pretty big that I accomplished myself.”
Mark Garing, who teaches the CHS Heating and Air Vocational program, was firm in his support for Swank when asked if he was one of the best he’d seen come through his program, saying, “Definitely. I mean, we have a lot of good sheet metal workers but to give up the first week of your summer, to practice and work like he did, takes something special…Now, he [Jacob] can go and say he’s the fifth best sheet metal worker for his age in the country.”
Garing has been teaching the Air and Heating program for 19 years now, beginning just a few years after the program was created in 1998. About his tenure, Garing said, “This was supposed to be a temporary job but I just loved it so much I never left.”