Recent Pocahontas County High School graduate Travis Taylor, of Dunmore, won second place in the carpentry competition at the National SkillsUSA contest June 25 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville.
Taylor was pitted against 45 of the top high school carpentry students in the nation. While they were the best of the best, Taylor said the competition was difficult and many competitors didn’t finish the task at hand.
“It’s definitely bigger, more difficult [than state competition],” Taylor said. “I lacked three boards from finishing my project. There were maybe two people that completed.”
Taylor is the first of carpentry teacher Duane Gibson’s students to win at the national competition.
“This is the first national winner the carpentry program has had,” Gibson said. “We’ve had several through the Chapter Business Team when Gary Beverage sponsored. We had one silver medal in electricity – Jonathan Wilkins placed second in the nation several years ago. This is the first medal in nationals for carpentry. They’re hard to come by.”
In his tenure at PCHS, Gibson has had four students – Danny McGee, Matt White, Dalton Walker and Taylor – compete at the national level.
“You’ve got to get through the states first and that’s even tough,” Gibson said. “Usually you have forty competitors on the state level and once you move from there to the nationals, you get forty-five.”
Each competitor at the national event received $1,000 worth of tools and all medalists receive an additional $1,000 worth of tools and gift cards.
Along with the tools, Taylor was awarded a silver medal. Gibson received a medal, as well.
“I got a replica of his,” Gibson said. “I told him I deserved a medal for four years of working with him. I said, ‘you finally got me one.’”
While Taylor was mainly focused on the competition, he was able to meet representatives from the carpentry industry.
“We toured a bunch of the tool shops and stuff like that,” Taylor said. “I got job offers, a lot of them, just from getting second in the nations. I got a lot of job offers from that. I’ve thought about some of them, but for right now, I’m just going to hang around here.”
‘Hang around,’ isn’t the best way to describe what Taylor is doing now, though. He is currently working for Varner Construction, in Durbin, where he is a carpenter and equipment operator.
“I’m in construction, doing remodeling and stuff like that, and then I’m running equipment, too,” he said. “I’ve got plenty of work around here.”
Once school is back in session, Taylor plans to talk to Gibson’s students about his experience competing on the national level.
“It opens up a lot of opportunities,” Taylor said. “It goes from a few kids in the carpentry classroom, to thirty or forty competitors at the state level, to twenty-five thousand in the stands at the national level. It’s a big thing.”