PEARL, Miss. – Holmes County Career and Technical Center and Greene County Vocational Technical School are statewide winners in the Building Futures Construction Competition.

Organized by the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation, the competition invited Mississippi CTE construction and manufacturing programs for grades 9-12 to build projects of their choice using wood or metal. Entries were judged during the recent MCEF SkillsUSA State Competition at the Mississippi Trade Mart in Jackson.

“The competition was a celebration of the many ways modern CTE programs are preparing students for stable, rewarding futures,” said MCEF President Mike Barkett. “Participants came together to tackle the challenge of imagining something and then taking steps to create it. It was an unbelievable experience to watch these groups in action.”

Capturing first place in the metal division was Greene County Vocational Technical Center under the direction of instructor Dale Box. Comprised of welding students Cole Kitchens, Mathew Crawford and Justin Liuzza, the team wowed judges with the creation of a grill and smoker set shaped in the form of a Ford Bronco.

Targeting uniqueness and difficulty, the team incorporated an array of features that include an under-the-hood grill and a box for wood and charcoal in the back. The side windows open for additional grilling or smoking space while exhaust pipes in the back allow smoke to cover the grill for intensified smoky flavor.

Led by instructor James Smith, Holmes County Career and Technical Center took top honors in the wood division. Comprised of Cartavios Powers, Detrick Thompson, Arkel Williams and Candarius Gibsion, the team excelled in the construction of a custom-built dream house for pets.

The team’s impressive creation features a covered porch, overhung gabled main roof, and five windows for constant circulation. The wooden 28 ¼-by-58 ½-inch structure provides for easy entry and exit and includes a raised floor that protects pets of all sizes from rainy weather.

Both entries employed a remarkable blend of creativity, imagination and teamwork. For their work, the winning teams were awarded $1,000 cash prizes for their school programs.

The competition coincides with MCEF’s Trade Up! awareness campaign to promote the long-term advantages of modern CTE programs. Trade Up! highlights the fact that CTE is becoming the preferred route to career and college success for a growing number of Mississippi students.

“Modern CTE programs provide a solid foundation for the future,” Barkett said. “Students can complete industry-based certification programs and go to work after they graduate or use their specialized training to get a head start on college degrees. In the meantime, they’re exposed to cutting-edge technologies that are highly valued in the job market.”

Professional trades are among the highest-paying and fastest-growing jobs in the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction occupations are projected to grow 6 percent through 2030. The BLS also reports that more than 300,000 construction jobs in the U.S. were unfilled at the start of 2022 — a trend that’s being felt in Mississippi.

“By 2024, Mississippi will need more than 80,000 craft professionals to meet the needs of the state’s growing construction industry,” Barkett said. “MCEF is working to ensure that students throughout Mississippi have access to high-quality training programs that will prepare them to pursue career opportunities in construction and other growing industries.”

The mission of the non-profit MCEF is to promote careers, recruit capable individuals and train a quality workforce for the construction and manufacturing industries in the state of Mississippi. MCEF also offers workforce training and credentialing in construction, industrial maintenance and manufacturing trades.

Learn more about MCEF at