SAVOY -- A 2010 graduate of Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School will be one of 1,000 competitors to compete in an international vocational skill competition in Germany.
Nicholas Michalenko, 20, of Savoy, will compete in the biennial WorldSkills Competition in Leipzig, Germany, this July, along with representatives from 53 countries or regions world-wide.
Michalenko was awarded a silver medal in Plumbing and Heating in November 2012 during the WorldSkills America's competition in Brazil. The United States competed against 23 other countries in preparation for the WorldSkills Competition.
Michalenko said getting the chance to travel to Brazil was an interesting experience.
"It was my first time truly being among people of another country," he said.
Michalenko was given a project with four stages to be completed over four days. He received a new blueprint every day, outlining plans for placing drain pipes and hot water, cold water and gas piping.
"All my pipes had to measure within two millimeters of what the blueprint said to get points on the score sheet," he said. "I was also judged on time management and craftsmanship."
Michalenko said his high school teachers were a great influence on him.
"The plumbing department is really good at what they do," he said. "They taught me more than enough about finding a job and being in the workforce."
Michalenko was encouraged to join SkillsUSA by teacher Scott Paterson, who also served as the school's SkillsUSA advisor.
"He was a great influence, and he really pushed me," Michalenko said. The school is trying to raise money so Paterson can also travel to Germany too, he said.
Each year, SkillsUSA holds a series of competitions at local, district, state and national levels at which students take on written exams, physical projects and oral presentations to showcase their trade skills.
The national nonprofit organization encourages partnerships between teachers, students and industry professionals to create a trained and educated future workforce. SkillsUSA is the organization that represents the United States in the WorldSkills Competition.
For Michalenko, the road to Germany began during in his junior year at a competition at McCann Technical School in North Adams. There, he competed against students from the region and then went to a state-wide competition in Worcester.
Michalenko made it all the way to the national SkillsUSA Championships competition in Kansas City, where he placed sixth in the plumbing competition. During his senior year, he made it back to Kansas City, and this time placed first.
Michalenko said he has high hopes for the competition in Germany, and is unsure exactly what to expect since plumbing in the U.S. is performed slightly differently than in other parts of the world.
"The principle is the same, but it's all a little different," he said.
One of the differences, he said, was in Brazil, water pipes are heated and hand-bent to make turns. In the U.S., fittings are used to join pipes and make angles.
"I think it will be interesting to learn how it's done differently in another country," he said.
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