Welding student ready to defend state title

Welding student ready to defend state title

Monday, March 24, 2014

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The spark inside Jason Bills to excel at his craft is matched only by the sparks that fly from the metal when he applies his welding torch to the material.

Bills, a welding student at OTC, will take his talents to the state SkillsUSA competition April 3-4 where he will try to repeat at the state's best welding student.

SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry in the technical fields working together to help ensure the country has a skilled workforce by helping students excel in their fields of study.

Should he win state, Bills would advance to national competition in Kansas City in June, as he did last year. Only this year, he wants to do better than the 26th place he finished in at last year's national level.

"I plan on winning state and nationals. After what I learned last year, I think I can do better but its the best of the best," the City Utilities mechanic said.

Last year at nationals, the 37-year-old Bills had issues with the gas lines he was using for the competition. It threw his timing off and he wasn't able to perform as well as he thought he could.

"It killed me mentally. Not being able to block out the problem was an issue," he said. "It was hard to come back."

Jim Bridwell, welding instructor at OTC, said Bills has a chance to do well at the national contest.

If everything goes right, he has the skills to take first place, Bridwell said.

This year, OTC will send more than 100 students to the state competition at Linn Tech..

"For the students, the competition is an opportunity for leadership and to win a scholarship," said Cindy Phillips, OTCs lead adviser for SkillsUSA. "Those who at state, win a scholarship good for four semesters, 15 hours a semester. Last year, we had 29 win first at state and 25 took the scholarship."

If Bills wins the national competition, he would be ineligible for world competition. No one over 21 can compete in the international contest.

But first things first. Bills wants to win state and then focus on nationals. Winning a national competition is a dream for him right now.

It would be reaching a personal goal, he said. Ive never really thought about being a national winner.