Brett Jenkins, who recently graduated Thomson High School, won a gold medal at the SkillsUSA national plumbing competition in Kansas City, Kan., on Tuesday.
He competed with 34 other students from across the country, most of whom attended vocational and technical schools, his teacher, Tony Arrington, said.
Jenkins had to take a written test with 100 questions about plumbing parts and proper methods, participate in interviews and complete a practical skills test that required him to construct a working plumbing system in 5½ hours. The simulated plumbing module contained cast iron and PVC pipes and a water supply system with copper.
“It’s pretty difficult. To be accurate and get it done in that amount of time is pretty hard to do,” Jenkins said. “If you rush, your measurements won’t be dead on, so you’ll lose points on everything you do. But if you don’t do it fast enough you won’t get points in all areas. You have to find the balance of speed and accuracy.”
As the winner, Jenkins received more than $2,000 in tools and clothing. This was his third appearance in the national competition.
“It’s pretty intense. It’s amazing what he does and how well he does it,” Arrington said. “I have good students, but this one here, the dedication that he’s had to win – this is amazing. He put in the time and has really made me proud. It takes something special to do that.”
SkillsUSA is a national nonprofit organization serving teachers and high school and college students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations, including health occupations. It was formerly known as VICA, or Vocational Industrial Clubs of America.
Jenkins took Arrington’s Fundamentals of Construction classes each year in high school. He studied electronics, carpentry, masonry and plumbing.
Jenkins said he is interested in plumbing because his father owns a plumbing business. He will attend Georgia Southern University in the fall and plans to major in mechanical engineering.