STATESBORO, Ga. (WSAV) — Construction students from 18 different high schools, around southeast Georgia competed in the 2022 Statesboro skills challenge.

It came at a time of serious need for more skilled workers.

From electrical work to welding and even masonry, this competition is helping high schoolers from around Georgia break into highly skilled fields, and it comes at a time when organizers say demand for this kind of talent is high.

“If you look at what’s happening on our construction sites today and for every four people that are retiring, only one are coming in,” Matt West said.

The demand for skilled workers in construction continues to grow but employers say they’re struggling to fill positions.

“This is a dying skill, plumbers, electricians, construction workers, that is something that a lot of people is not doing,” Israel Cortez said. “One of the things that every company and every employer right now is struggling to find the workforce, the talent that we need.”

But there’s a big push to change that and it’s starting in Statesboro. Wednesday, roughly 200 Georgia high school students came out to show off their skills in front of potential employers, competing in areas like carpentry, roofing and plumbing.

“Everybody here is looking and watching at these kids and trying to figure out who might be their next employee,” West said.

It comes at a time when there’s more opportunity than ever, with the Hyundai mega plant underway in Bryan County. Organizers said the demand for skilled workers is going to continue to grow in the Peach State.

“It doesn’t take long to realize what that plant is going to do for our community,” West said.

It’s the second year of this competition and already interest has grown.

“We’re up about 70 competitors from last year and we’ve got five more schools than we did last year,” West said. 

Among the new competitors is high school senior Cole Barnett. He’s been learning to operate heavy machinery and said he wants to see more support for programs like this one.

“These are the type of companies I would want to work for,” Barnett said. “Put more money into programs like these.”

Organizers say this is just the beginning of what they plan to do, they’d like to see more funding into programs like this one and they look forward to continuing this competition in the years to come.