This CNM Student is Bringing a Piece of New Mexico to the National SkillsUSA Competition in Atlanta

Scott Schneider will be participating in the Welding Sculpture category during the competition – his sculpture captures the wild beauty of New Mexico
June 13, 2023

Scott Schneider has a unique problem on his hands. Over the coming days he has to figure out how to get a 40-pound sculpture he created down to Atlanta, Georgia for the SkillsUSA National Leadership & Skills Conference that takes place June 19-23. 

He has two options. He can try to get it on the plane with him, but if the airline says it won’t fit he’ll need to pack it up carefully and send it via special delivery. Either way, the effort will be worth the work because the sculpture is a beautiful piece of art that already took home the gold medal in the Welding Sculpture category at the SkillsUSA New Mexico competition. It depicts a bugling elk on a rocky cliff surrounded by mountain and desert plants and will be entered in the national Welding Sculpture contest.

“If I’m not working you’ll find me in the mountains hiking or hunting, and that’s where my inspiration came from,” Scott says. “I felt like the elk and the whole scene was a good way to represent New Mexico and the most beautiful parts of this state. I wanted to show a scene where the Rockies meet the high desert because that’s what really defines where we live.”

Down in Atlanta, Scott will be up against the best trades students in the country as they put their skills to the test at the National SkillsUSA competition, which is the largest gathering of America’s future skilled workforce. The event draws more than 19,000 people, including student competitors, instructors, and business and industry partners. Students, in fields ranging from carpentry to welding to automotive technology, are often recruited by employers at the event.

Historically, CNM students perform very well at the national competition. Just last year, Zane Horton, Christopher Rodriguez, and Walter Armijo, who made up CNM’s Welding Fabrication team, took home gold, beating out hundreds of other students. 

“I’ll be honest and say that I’m both excited and nervous for Nationals. I have no idea what the other sculptures look like and I know there are a lot of other talented artists throughout the country,” Scott says. 

As you can imagine, Scott’s sculpture was a huge amount of work. He has over 300 hours invested, and most of it was done during a Welding Sculpture class he took at CNM in preparation for the New Mexico competition. The hardest part was trying to get everything to look correct. 

“My biggest biggest challenge by far was getting the proportions right. I had to make sure the legs and the antlers were proportionate to the body of the elk, make sure the yucca plants were proportionate to the elk as a whole, etcetera,” he says. 

Luckily Scott had lots of help. He said all the Welding instructors were attentive and helpful during the sculpture class, but also throughout his time at CNM.

“CNM’s Welding program is one of the best in the country for a reason. All the instructors are encouraging and care about their students and they want to see us become better welders,” Scott says. “Even more they want to see us succeed after college.”

Scott has one more term at CNM and then the plan is to get a great job. He wants to travel so he’s going to apply to help with power plant shutdowns, to a refinery, or a pipeline. 

But SkillsUSA is up next, and for now Scott is just trying to focus in so that he can get his sculpture sent down and prepare for the judges’ interview he has to go through where he explains his approach and technique. 

“I know the best approach is to not overthink anything and instead be honest about how this all came together. Ultimately I just want to represent CNM well,” he says.