Witt-Birn wins first at wood working olympics

Event was put on to showcase various careers in the wood industry post graduation
Luke Reimer

Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School was recently the recipient of a major wood working award.

Northcentral Technical College Wood science instructor and program director Logan Wells said that the team from Wittenberg-Birnamwood won the wood working olympics event, hosted in April.

“The woods olympics is a new recruiting event that we are doing to raise awareness for careers in the wood industry,” said Wells. “It is really to highlight and showcase the importance of those skills. We want to highlight that these skills that kids are learning in high school can lead to a career in the industry that are sustainable and can support families.”

Wells explained that the teams present from seven schools competed in a series of events, including wood species and wood product identification, measurements and quality control, equipment identification and a wood science knowledge test.

“Our goal was to give a really engaging program for our woods program and what is in the woods industry,” said Wells. “We then had a team trivia contest and career fair bingo. The Wittenberg-Birnamwood boys did really well in (career fair bingo), because it really tested that interpersonal relationship skill.”

Wittenberg-Birnamwood junior Marshall Fraaza said that he enjoyed being at the olympics

“We brought projects that we made and took tests on wood and industry knowledge,” said Fraaza. “As a group we had the most cumulative points to win. We like wood working a lot. We got cool prizes, including some new tools.”

Fraaza went on to say that being at the wood working olympics helped him to continue to develop and test his skills, as he is looking at going into construction after graduating high school.

“I am going to be doing a lot of finishing work, so it was nice to be here for that,” said Fraaza. “A lot of this was stuff that we just kind of picked up.”

Continuing with the theme of showcasing various careers in the wood industry, Wells highlighted the career fair bingo as an important event.

“What was cool about it is that they would have to go up, introduce themselves (to employers of different jobs), shake hands and then ask the business what they make or do,” said Wells. “It was a cool connection, because we were able to bring our industry in to tell their story to high-schoolers.”

For the team’s efforts in winning the competition, the participants won a total of $1,200 to split between four people from Lake States Lumber Association.

“We want to reward students for putting in extra time and effort,” said Wells. “They learn a ton in their classes, but outside of class as well. We want to celebrate career skills and how important the trades are.”

In regards to what stuck out about the Witt-Birn team, Wells pointed to the team’s intensity, as well as comfortability meeting and talking to different companies.

“They were laser-focused, and they were on a mission,” said Wells. “They were very professional in introducing themselves and getting to know the companies. They had to learn the skills that went into each business — they were very engaged in that process.”

Witt-Birn technology education and woodshop teacher Caleb McPhail said that he was proud of the students for challenging themselves and succeeding in this competition.

“As teachers, we are always asking our kids to challenge themselves,” said McPhail. “We are trying to get them to put themselves out there and put them in a situation where they are not comfortable. For me, I was happy that they volunteered to go. To see them be successful in that, I mean that is why we do what we do.”

In regards to an impact on the school district, McPhail said that a lot of students just see the basics of what happen in the industry. With this win, McPhail hopes that it opens more students’ eyes to what a career in the wood industry can look like.

“It is kind of that piece of getting outside of your bubble and comfortability and truly seeing what is out there,” said McPhail. “It is something that we can do very locally. Some students like to stay in this area — they don’t want to leave the area, they want to grow the area. So just showing them that the lumber industry is here and we can make a lot of that stuff happen here.”

McPhail said that this win helps to validate the hard work that the students put in to continuing to develop skills that could benefit them in the future.

“A lot of them do this outside of school — we have a lot of hardworking kids around here,” said McPhail. “I think that proves that that work pays off.”

He added that this is another opportunity for students to pursue if sports or other extra-curricular are not in the student’s interest.

“I am just proud of that group and all of kids in general,” said McPhail.

Witt-Birn junior Charlie Nowinsky, who was also a part of the team, had some confidence as the team looks to next year.

“We will repeat next year,” said Nowinsky.