Ferris SkillsUSA participants continue success, prepare for WorldSkills

Ferris State University’s SkillsUSA team recently competed in the National Leadership and Skills Conference. Pictured are (from left, front) Brett Bouwens, of Cedar Springs; Haven Robinson, of Kingsley; Jeanette Woolridge, of Pontiac; (back) William Cebelak, of Grand Rapids; Ryan O’Grady, of Rockford; Ben Tabbert, of Interlochen; and CAD, Drafting and Tool Design Technology Professor Dan Wanink. (Courtesy photo)

Submitted by Ferris State University 

BIG RAPIDS — While preparing for the workforce, local college students also will be getting ready for an international trip to represent the nation next year.

A team of Ferris State University’s College of Engineering Technology students continued the tradition of excellence while participating recently in the 2018 SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. CAD, Drafting and Tool Design Technology Professor Dan Wanink said six CET students joined him for the 54th annual conference, during which Jeanette Woolridge, of Pontiac, earning a bronze medal in the architectural drafting competition, and William “Grady” Cebelak, of Grand Rapids, taking the bronze among the diesel equipment technology contestants.

“This level of excellence puts the learning available through Ferris’ CET programs in a most positive light on the national level,” Wanink said. “A number of alumni from our programs attended the conference as corporate partners, and their message to our team was the workforce is in real need of what our graduates can provide.

“We did not medal in all the categories we entered at the SkillsUSA national contest; however, each of the students had to earn first place in Michigan to advance to the national level. So, our team being able to compete at this level remains significant and important.”

Wanink said while the team was at the SkillsUSA conference, heavy equipment maintenance student Ryan Meppelink, of Zeeland, received word he would be part of the United States team at the WorldSkills 2019 competition in Kazan, Russia. Representatives of more than 70 countries will face each other in more than 50 areas of skilled professions from a wide range of industries to be exhibited there.

“Ryan’s trainer is based in Wisconsin. So, they will be meeting in Michigan, Wisconsin and a few other states. They will meet with corporate partners to prepare Ryan for the WorldSkills competition to work on their objectives before the competition in August next year,” Wanink said.

Early in the spring, Wanink was asked to serve as the national expert and trainer for the mechanical engineering CAD competitor.

National medalists from the past two years competed for the available spot to represent the United States at WorldSkills 2019. Ben Campbell, from Northwest Nazarene University, in Nampa, Idaho, earned this position and will be training with Wanink until August of 2019.

“Our next face-to-face meeting with the U.S. delegation going to WorldSkills will be at SkillsUSA National headquarters in Leesburg, Virginia next month and due to our location, much of the training will be virtual as we exchange guides, information on materials and the like,” Wanink said. “There are 21 students in all on the US WorldSkills team. I am definitely excited to be a part of this.”

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