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Licking FFA welders compete in welding contest

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From left, Tucker Miller, Evan Gifford and Bruce Foster competed in the second annual welding competition at MSU-West Plains on Friday, January 20.


WEST PLAINS, Mo. (January 27, 2023) – Twenty-seven area high school seniors participated in the second annual welding contest hosted Friday, Jan. 20, by Missouri State University-West Plains’ workforce development office.

The students represented the Koshkonong, Licking, Thayer, Alton, Willow Springs and West Plains school districts, as well as the Piney River Technical Center in Houston.

The contest took place at the Pace Industrial Science Center on the MSU-WP campus.

“Our second annual welding competition was another great success,” said Sheila Barton, director of workforce development. “This annual event continues to support our high school and career and technical education students by providing them with the opportunity to prepare for the future and fund their education.”

The competition included written and hands-on welding tests. The students were provided instructions on the types of welds that were required and judged on 10 specific areas, including the weld process, joint and position, Barton said.

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Evan Gifford, right, of Licking High School placed third in this year’s welding contest. Gifford was congratulated by MSU-WP Chancellor Dennis Lancaster, left, and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Dr. Michael Orf.

Winners were: Wyatt Jackson, West Plains High School, first place; Ryan Thompson, West Plains High School, second place; and Evan Gifford, Licking High School, third place.

Judges for the event were Bill Adams of Adams Construction, Danny Lilo of Airgas, and Dillon Tribble of West Plains Recycling Center.

Scholarship awards in the amounts of $1,000, $750 and $500 were presented to the first, second and third place finishers, respectively. In addition to the scholarships, winners received a trophy, welding hood, Dewalt grinder and wheels, Yeti tumblers and more.

Leonardo DRS sponsored the $1,000 top scholarship, and two company representatives, Vice President of Operations-Land Systems Steve Foster and Business Development Manager Ryan Cundall, were on hand to present the award.

“The weld training program is going to be a major pipeline to securing needed employees in our facilities,” Foster said. “We are proud to help support such a great program offered in our community.”

Chuck Cook, welding and fabrication instructor at MSU-WP, said he was impressed with the skills displayed by the participants and their readiness to compete, explaining they had been taught well in their high school or vocational programs. Their abilities were a reflection of their instructors’ leadership, he added.

“The level of participation was encouraging and shows the future of the welding industry,” he said. “There is a need for skilled trades, and each of these students will have an opportunity to learn new skills and have a career in the welding and fabrication industry.”

All contest participants received a T-shirt from Adams Construction and other prizes donated by Airgas, Brocaw Bearing and Industrial Supply, Westlake Ace Hardware, and Hirsch Feed and Farm Supply.

Other financial sponsors included The Steel Yard, Hughes Towing, West Plains Recycling, Mr. Dent, L & R Industries, Leonardo DRS and Caterpillar.

Participants also had the opportunity to visit with representatives from MSU-WP’s admissions office and learn more about the university’s technology programs and careers in welding.

For more information about the welding contest or the technical programs offered by MSU-WP, contact Barton at 417-255-7784 or email

Missouri State University-West Plains empowers students to achieve personal success and to enrich their local and global communities by providing accessible, affordable and quality educational opportunities. Missouri State-West Plains offers associate degrees and credit and non-credit courses, and serves as a delivery site for bachelor’s and master’s degrees offered by Missouri State University in Springfield.

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