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Trade Secrets


Kids at a Texas high school are learning new skills and heading from the classroom to the real world equipped for success. A unique partnership between Belton High School and MW Builders has changed the way students learn — and changed lives along the way.

Nestled in the suburbs near Fort Hood, Texas, Belton High School is making quite a name for itself on the national stage. Led by trades teacher Craig Sullivan, his construction management program is preparing students for the real world one competition — and one mentor — at a time.

Tasked with compiling and training a team for district and state competitions, Sullivan and school administrators reached out to MW Builders for professional guidance. Competition aside, they recognized not all students would attend a trade school or college, so their focus became ensuring students were labor ready upon graduation.

"We’ve worked with MW Builders to be sure our curriculum is up to par and aligns with standards in the industry. We don’t want kids leaving here and being shocked — we want them ready to contribute immediately," said Sullivan.

Sullivan prepares his students in the classroom in a variety of trades, including carpentry, plumbing, electrical, and brick masonry. His team won at the district and state levels, earning a spot in the SkillsUSA competition, where they would compete against fellow state champions from across the country.

SkillsUSA is comprised of students, teachers, and industry professionals who hold educational programs, events, and competitions to support career and technical education. At the national competition, teams of four must build and tear down a structure — without knowing what that will be until the competition begins.


To prepare for the unknown, Sullivan throws many scenarios at his students, as well as uses his resources at MW Builders for additional training. Both Sullivan and team captain Bryson Coufal cite the metal stud framing training provided by Toby Gower as a game changer in the competition.

"Many people at the competition didn’t know how to use metal studs in the way that we did, so we were able to complete our task quicker. MW Builders really helped us because we were able to handle everything thrown at us in the competition," said Bryson.

For the first time in school history, the Belton High team placed seventh in the SkillsUSA competition, but, more than that, they walked away with a brighter future.

"When you can walk on the national stage from Belton, Texas, and know you can compete with students from the east and west coasts, that bodes very well for their confidence. We are the first and only Texas team to score as high as we did, and it is since our partnership with MW Builders that we have gotten in the limelight," says Sullivan.


Sullivan has also seen a spike in interest in his class and competitive team. "My class is now full, and kids are lined up to get a spot. I now get kids who are serious about the construction field. Two of my seniors from last year went on to study engineering at Texas A&M, whereas, previously, they might not have gone to college at all."

Sullivan, as well as those involved from MW Builders, are excited about the future and the evolution of the partnership. "It’s really evolved from one mentor helping us out to a true partnership. Now, our kids job shadow and call on MW Builders for different questions; someone is always there or comes to class to show us something new," said Sullivan.

MW Builders Safety Manager John Francis has been involved since day one, and he recognizes the bigger picture of the partnership – and the students’ success. "Our goal is to help produce students that have value in society right out of high school. If they come to MW Builders one day, that’s great. If not, we’re making our community a better place to live."