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(Pictured above: In the 2023 AGC Skills Challenge, over 125 students in the Metro Atlanta Region showcased their talents in eight different areas of construction. The event was held at the Cobb Civic Center.)

The North Gwinnett Voice had the pleasure of catching up with Buford High School’s Career Tech Education (CTE) Construction Teacher and Head Bass Fishing Coach, Casey Laws.

Coach Laws filled the community in on some activities and recent successes of this construction pathway, which the school has offered since 2017. He has served in his position as the construction teacher for all but one year since the program started.

Laws reports: “Our focus in CTE at BHS is to prepare students for career pathways in the global marketplace and to help students successfully transition into post-secondary opportunities as they become contributing members of society. Our construction program provides students with the opportunities to use different power tools, learn about different careers offered in the world of construction, as well as compete in skills-challenges to showcase what they are learning in our construction lab.”

Sophomore Carter Waycaster is soldering copper pipes together for the HVAC event at Skills Challenge.

In the beginning of the program, the students start with a course in safety and fundamentals and learn to use different hand and power tools to complete performance-based tasks. These include, “building wooden saw horses, wooden tool organizers, small concrete forms, or any multitude of small woodworking projects,” he said.

Once into the second year, the focus pivots toward trade-based careers and students are introduced to various trades within the construction world.

Laws explained: “This second course is fun for them as they are learning different hands-on skills in the lab such as electrical wiring, soldering pieces of copper, brick laying, and working as teams to construct larger wood projects such as Adirondack chairs or planter boxes.”

Here’s a peak at Junior Brian Castellanos competing in the masonry event at Skills Challenge.

Upon entering their third year in the CTE construction program, participants embark into a focus on carpentry and design. During this trajectory, the students get to apply the skills they’ve cultivated during their previous years’ courses and experiences. Laws explains how students are afforded the skills-building opportunity to learn about, “the building process from the ground up in both residential and commercial construction. They learn to read plans, estimate the amount and cost of materials, and assemble a foundation, wall, and roof system. They are also exposed to different types of interior and exterior finishes such as sheetrock, siding options, and trim styles.”

Senior Reinhardt Kruger installing electrical boxes at the Skills Challenge

He went on to inform how: “Each year our students compete in a Skill Challenge event. This competition is now part of Skills USA, and we had 12 students compete this year in the fields of carpentry, team building craftsmanship, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, and masonry.”

Notably, this year two Buford High School students advanced to the state level of the competition by placing third in their respective categories.

Lee Bouton received third place for the masonry competition. Jonah McClure also received third place in the plumbing competition. 

According to Laws, “These students worked very hard to prepare, and we are very excited to watch them compete at the state competition in February.”

The Skills Challenge event is sponsored by the Associated General Contractors of Georgia (AGC) under SkillsUSA and was a regional competition for schools in the Metro Atlanta region. Buford High students competed in one of a series of eight events held throughout the state which cumulatively hosted more than 2,300 students from nearly 100 schools.

Coach Laws (far left) with his 3rd and 4th year students after treating them to Dairy Queen since 12 of the 12 competed in the Skills Challenge. Jonah McClure (middle front in a green hoodie) and Lee Bouton (far right in a gray hoodie) are the two students that are competing at the state level in February.





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