Skip to main content

Murray Journal

Murray High student wins state Skills USA, prepares for nationals

Jun 10, 2019 11:08AM ● By Julie Slama

Murray High’s Chris Thompson, who finished third in job skills demonstration, and senior Jacob Held, who won the carpentry contest, pose with their construction teacher Quinn Drury after receiving their state Skills USA medals. (Photo courtesy of Quinn Drury)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Murray High senior Jacob Held had four hours to essentially build a model home during the state Skills USA contest in carpentry. 

Even though another contestant finished first, Held kept his concentration, checking everything — even the plate that broke around the door frame that he had to nail together. He finished with 30 minutes left in the competition.

“At the end, I felt good,” he said. “I had done everything in the time limit.”

His adviser, construction and manufacturing teacher Quinn Drury, said, “Jacob’s work was clean and concise even if someone else was done first.”

Judges, who work in the industry, agreed, awarding him first place and a bid to compete at the national Skills USA contest June 24 through June 28 in Louisville, Kentucky. 

However, Held isn’t just waiting for the date to approach. Each week, Held is building replicas of previous competitions to sharpen his skills. At nationals, he will have eight hours to build the assigned project.

“There’s a lot more angles that add on to each other. I draw everything out, put measurements on paper before I cut,” he said, adding that his high school math classes have been critical in carpentry. “I’m psyched to go to nationals. I’ve never been to Kentucky.”

Drury said Held’s math skills have contributed to his success.

“He has a good chance of placing at nationals, to get on the podium,” Drury said. “Jacob’s very talented, hard-working and committed.”

Held has taken wood working as well as three years of construction at Murray High. In addition, he worked last summer framing homes, helping journeyman carpenters with measuring and cutting.

“It’s the same stuff I’ve learned in class and on the project houses, but I learned to work faster, be more precise and work in an organized way where everyone has a role,” he said. “I like seeing what I accomplish, seeing a house go up.”

Drury agreed his work last summer propelled him to excel this year.

“After he worked with the framing crew, Jacob really catapulted ahead. It was a huge benefit for his skills,” he said.

With his state victory in late March, Held was awarded a Salt Lake Community College tuition waiver. He already has been awarded the Career and Technical Education scholarship in construction management at SLCC. 

In addition to the state medal, Held also received tools at the state competition and Drury said all carpentry contestants at nationals receive additional tools and supplies that will total about $2,500.

Held’s national competition also includes an oral presentation, a 10-minute interview and submitting a resume.

Last year, Murray High’s Jeb Price placed in the top 1/3 of carpentry contestants.

“We’ve struggled to place in the top three. We’ve had a few reach fourth or fifth, but with Jacob, we may be able to reach the podium,” Drury said.

Held said he didn’t compete last year, but got motivated by watching his classmate practice and compete.

“I’ve learned a lot with this,” he said. “Everyday, there’s something small that is new and I’ve had the chance to talk to people who do the work in the field or ones I work with.”

Also at state, Murray High’s Chris Thompson placed third in job skills demonstration where he outlined how to frame walls to the judges. He received a medal, tools and a partial SLCC tuition waiver.