Legendary soul singer James Brown’s song, “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” could easily describe 18-year-old Mackenzie Causley.
The 2013 Grand Haven High School and Careerline Tech Center graduate recently accomplished a rare honor among females. Mackenzie has shown that females can excel in a male-dominated occupation.
She took first place recently in plumbing in the annual State Leadership and Skills competition. The daughter of Donald and Valerie Causley of Grand Haven Township took it to the boys in the competition to become the first female to ever win the state plumbing competition.
Mackenzie’s achievement has earned her a trip to the national competition for high school and college students pursuing careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations. This year’s nationals, hosted by Skills USA, will be held in Kansas City, Mo., from June 24-29. There, she’ll be competing against the best in the nation.
What makes Mackenzie’s accomplishment even more impressive is that she finished fourth in regional competition held prior to the state contest.
But Mackenzie was equal to the task in the tougher state competition. In fact, one judge told Mackenzie that her soldering work was the best he had ever seen.
Mackenzie and the other contestants had to read blueprints and then install a shower, toilet, kitchen faucet and drainage system in four and a half hours. She also impressed the judges by asking a lot of questions.
Mom and dad, of course, are very proud of their daughter. Mom will be traveling with Mackenzie to Kansas City to serve as a chaperone.
The tasks in the national competition will be similar to the state ones, but this time the students will be working with cast iron piping instead of plastic piping. Although the national competition is spread over several days, Mackenzie will have the same four-and-a-half-hour time limit to complete all of the tasks. She also will be taking a two-and-a-half-hour written test.
Competing in a male-dominated field can be a challenge for females. Mackenzie said some of the boys in the competition — and even some of the coaches — made remarks about a “girl in the competition.”
But, after winning, Mackenzie earned the respect of her competitors and coaches.
“She won the respect of her classmates," mother Valerie said. "And after winning the state competition, she opened a lot of eyes."
The road to the state championship wasn’t an easy one. Mackenzie had planned on studying to become a nurse before trying her hand at plumbing. She was looking to take some classes at the Careerline Tech Center when a plumbing program piqued her interest.
“I always liked to work with my hands, so I thought I would try it,” she said.
So, she enrolled in Careerline Tech’s two-year plumbing and water systems program, the only one in the state.
The early results weren’t as promising as she had hoped. Mackenzie admitted that she struggled during her first year in the program. But she kept working hard at improving her skills.
The state honor is proof of how hard work and perseverance can pay off.
Mackenzie’s impressive showing at the state competition drew a number of job offers, including one from the Pipe Fitters of America Union Plumbers/Workers.
For now, Mackenzie has set aside the job opportunities to pursue a college education at Ferris State University, which offers a four-year degree in plumbing. Mackenzie said she would someday like to own a plumbing company.
She also hopes that more girls will be willing to try other things, even if it is a field dominated by males.
It might me a man’s world, but it would be nothing without girls like Mackenzie Causley. She is a state champion.
— By Len Painter