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Ryan Whiting celebrates his national championship achievement.

Ryan Whiting Wins National Welding Contest

Louisville, KY (June 24, 2019) - On June 24th, 2019 JRTC, welding student Ryan Whiting traveled to Louisville Kentucky for a week - long welding competition at the SkillsUSA National Conference. With welding competitors representing every US state, Ryan came out on top, and brought the gold medal back to Alleghany County! Ryan is shown here receiving his medal in front of a sold out arena with over 15,000 people.

SkillsUSA, formally VICA, is the student organization for career and technical education students across America. With over 100 different contests, students start out at district contests in their home state. From there, they advance on to a state contest where the winner continues on to the National contest in June.

Many contests, such as welding, don’t end there. College and high school competitors under the age of 23 have an opportunity to continue competing over the next 18 months to earn the spot to represent the United States in the World Skills competition (Welding Olympics) which is held every two years, with the next one being in Shanghai China in 2021. We are waiting patiently for the formal invitation which should come out in the next few days outlining the process for US welding trials. When the invitation is received, there will be a lot of discussion about the commitment and support needed to continue on to world trials. If the decision is made to continue the process, the goal for 2021 will be to see Ryan standing on stage in China as the world’s best welder!

Ryan’s journey began at the Pulaski county district contest where he placed 1st. He then moved on to compete in the welding state contest in VA Beach.

After winning the gold at the state conference, Ryan then advanced to represent Virginia at the 55th annual National Leadership and Skills Conference held in Louisville Kentucky on June 24-28, 2019. This is the world’s largest showcase of skilled trades. Quality career and technical education is the centerpiece of the conference. More than 18,000 students, teachers, education leaders, and representatives from 600 national corporations, trade associations, businesses and labor unions participated, with over 100 skill and leadership competitions.

Ryan’s National contest actually began four weeks before departing for Louisville. For the first time ever, the contest committee posted detailed drawings of the projects in advance, giving students time to practice and prepare before arriving. This was when Williams Fabrication and Gala Industries were called upon to help. Dependable as always, they immediately began cutting out material for Ryan to practice over a four week span. Tony Williams, former JRTC student Zach Chittum, and many others worked to cut over 60 carbon projects, while Bobby Long, Frank Morris, and the guys at Gala Industries cut over 60 aluminum projects for Ryan to practice. These included projects for; cutting torch, mig, stick, tig, and fluxcore; as pictured.

Over the course of four weeks Ryan trained as much as possible. He practiced these projects, and worked at completing each of them in the one hour time limit required. He also received detailed review of the welding equipment, settings, and parameters on the same machines that he would be using in Louisville. These were the exact machines that were recently purchased in the welding program equipment updates at JRTC, graciously funded by the Alleghany Foundation. Ryan also received training on welding inspection with training equipment that was borrowed from DSLCC, which also ended up being the same equipment used in Louisville. Finally, he received a review of the procedures, policies, and an overall idea of how things would go on competition day. All of which were learned when Hannah Wolfe competed at Nationals in 2018 and finished with a top 10 high school score.

The competition began on Tuesday, June 25th with an orientation and written test related to welding theory. On Wednesday the college and postgrad competition was held, and high school competitors had the opportunity to watch the contest to become comfortable with the entire event. The high school students completed the welding on Thursday while rotating through the following stations; welding inspection, gtaw welding aluminum, gmaw, fcaw, & smaw welding, and oxy-fuel cutting. Friday was a debriefing session along with the awards ceremony being held later that evening.

After the contest, all of the competitor’s projects were displayed. It was evident that Ryan did very well, and had a chance to be in the top five. We believed that the contest would come down to attention to detail, and would be decided by the written test, welding inspection, following procedures, and not having safety violations. All of these things, which cannot be seen by just looking at projects, are things that Ryan excels in daily, and are things that all JRTC welding students are drilled on!

We waited patiently at the sold out awards ceremony, just as our National Champion Fabrication Team did in 2014. We knew that welding would be the 12th out of over 100 contests called out. We watched the screen, and saw the 3rd place Michigan, then the 2nd place Ohio, and then the 1st place name came up showing Ryan Whiting from Jackson River Technical Center, Covington, VA! As expected we were very excited, and all of us came out of our seats.

I could not be prouder of Ryan, and all of our students that graduate from the JRTC welding program. Their accomplishments in the workforce, competitions, colleges, and apprenticeships are truly amazing.

Finally, I would like to recognize Jimmy Fridley, JRTC carpentry instructor, and his student, Mason Carter. The accomplishments of these two have been astounding, and overshadowed in some ways. They both need to be recognized. For possibly the first time ever, a JRTC student won the Virginia state cabinetmaking contest. Mason is a very talented woodworker with great character, motivation, and work ethic. His attention to detail and speed in cabinet making ranks him among the top students to ever go through the JRTC carpentry program. For the past 2 ½ years, Mason has been in Jimmy Fridley’s carpentry class at JRTC. For those that don’t know Mr. Fridley, he is an excellent instructor, and very dedicated to our JRTC teaching team. It is amazing to see Jimmy’s energy each day, and his interaction with students and faculty. Regardless of the situation, Mr. Fridley has a way of making everyone’s day better! Mr. Fridley, Mason, and Jacob Wright also accompanied us on our journey to the National competition, and were a big part of our team. Unlike welding, no information or updates were posted by SkillsUSA on the cabinetmaking contest, and there was no way to prepare or even expect how that contest would be run. All they knew was what tools to bring and where to be. While many students and instructors would have been frustrated over the lack of information, these two kept a positive attitude and did an excellent job in a very competitive national competition. They were both also very supportive throughout the week and instrumental in Ryans success.

In closing, I want to thank everyone again that has supported our program, and had an impact on Ryan and other student accomplishments. The Alleghany Foundation, WestRock, Glenn Spangler, Jimmy Fridley, Jacob Wright and the JRTC Board, DSLCC, Williams Fabrication, Gala Industries, and of course the many other family, friends, and students. All of which helped make Ryan Whiting “The best high school welder in the nation” who was also awarded over $25,000 in scholarships and welding equipment.

Stay Tuned for 2021 and maybe a field trip to China?
Carpentry instructor Jimmy Fridley with Mason Carter.

Ryan Whiting and Mason Carter

Ryan Whiting with some of his projects.

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