Kyle Langston, a junior in a Kern High School District diesel and agricultural mechanics program, adjusted each of eight valves in a diesel engine before his instructor deconstructed the engine for the next student.
Langston said it is the kind of work he hopes to continue after high school.
"I like fixing stuff," he said.
The timed contest was part of a skills competition held in 16 different career and technical education areas Friday at the KHSD Regional Occupational Center (ROC).
More than 500 high school students participated this year in what was the 17th annual Skills Olympics contest.
Some local ROC students, who competed in a regional skills contest, also qualified for a state skills competition that will be held April 24-27 at the Town and Country Resort and Conference Center in San Diego.
Daniel Aguilar and Nathaniel Graffice, seniors at Foothill High, explained that students in the ROC ag mechanics program were manually rotating the valves of diesel engines Friday to better understand how the engines should operate properly.
Other students drew syringes, rebuilt computers and answered questions in mock interviews. Each group was tested in skills it had been practicing in the ROC program since August.
Brian Miller, assistant principal of the ROC program, said the center (a career and technical education facet of the Kern High School District) serves students from more than 17 high schools.
"Students are getting a head start here on their career," he said.
They learn not only the hard skills they will need to enter their chosen career fields but also soft skills like workplace communication, how to apply for jobs and how to keep the jobs they attain.
Nathan Urmston, a computer technology teacher, said he has encountered a number of students who have not completed career or technical training. He said they graduate from college and cannot find work.
"They needed a skill," Urmston said.
Eddie Mora, a senior at Independence High in the computer technology program, said he will graduate with a much-needed skill-set. Mora completed an internship at Grapevine MSP, a computer repair company, last year and was since hired to work as a part-time, entry-level technician for the company.
He plans to begin a full-time position when he graduates.
"I love it," Mora said. "This is what I want to do for the rest of my life."
Hannah Mitchell, a senior at Liberty High School and a student in the ROC animal care program, said she wants to be a veterinary technician.
She drew 3 cubic centimeters of vitamin B complex with a syringe in her skills test Friday.
"It was scary," Mitchell said.
Mike Elliot, a retired ag science teacher and a judge Friday, said Mitchell may have been nervous but she completed most of the steps correctly.
He said the skills competition is useful because it tests student knowledge of skills they will need after they graduate from high school.
Elliot listed some of the steps to properly administering medication -- that the technician washes her hands, ensures the syringe is sterile and chooses the correct medication and dosage.
"If you're going to become a veterinary technician, this is something you're going to be doing in a veterinary hospital or a veterinary clinic," he said.
It is the kind of program purpose judges and educators in many of the different fields articulated Friday.
"We're really training our students here to go to work," Assistant Principal Miller said.