KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Here are two sets of numbers to remember: 5,000 and 91; and 54 and 1. There were some 5,000 young persons in Kansas City in late June for the 44th SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference. They were winners from SkillsUSA chapters who competed in local, state, and regional competitions to reach the national championship in 91 different vocational disciplines.
In that mix were 54 students competing in one of those categories: Heating, Ventilation, Air-Conditioning, and Refrigeration. After several days of motivational talks, leadership seminars, and visits to close to 150 exhibitors, the future techs took to the floor of the massive Bartel Hall in downtown Kansas City for eight hours of hands-on competition. They brazed, they ID’d refrigerants, they leak tested, they monitored airflow, and they troubleshot air conditioning, heating, and refrigeration equipment - all under the watchful eyes of judges from industry manufacturers and trade associations, as well as thousands of spectators who passed by throughout the day.
As a demonstration of the diversity of vocations, the HVACR contestants were neighbors to the sheet metal, residential wiring, photography, and culinary arts competitions with plumbing and welding nearby.
“This week was all about motivation and the desire to be the absolute best,” said Timothy Lawrence, SkillsUSA executive director. “Our students are motivated by the teachers who help educate and prepare them for a skilled career and the industry partners who make programs like SkillsUSA possible.”
All of which caused Tom Quinn, assistant commissioner, Missouri Division of Career and Technical Education to say, “We consistently hear from industry and business leaders that their first priority is to hire someone with good ‘soft skills’ or principles and values. While the competition features the skills learned, we know these skills will change with the advancement of technology.
“The vision of the founders of SkillsUSA was to realize that certain principles and values do not change with new technologies.”
THE MEDALS GO TO...Throughout the HVACR competition, the judges scored technicians in a range of criteria from remembering to wear safety goggles, to proper use of tools, to identifying system components to properly diagnosing a problem and correcting it. The young techs’ expertise in nine different aspects of HVACR including a written exam taken earlier in the week, resulted in a maximum of 1,000 points.
When the scores were tallied up, six competitors earned respective gold, silver, and bronze metals in two categories - one for those in high school programs, the other for those in post-secondary programs.
In the college/post-secondary category, the HVACR gold medal went to Jerrad Porter of Lewis-Clark State College, Lewiston, Idaho; the silver to Marcus Eckroth, North Dakota College of Science, Wahpeton, N.D.; and the bronze to Timothy Cross, Scott Community College, Bettendorf, Iowa.
In the high school division, the winners were Jacob Dullen, Niagara Career and Technical Center, Sanborn, N.Y., gold; Justin Ost, R. G. Drage Career Educational Center, Massillon, Ohio, silver; and Cody Wheeler, Barren County Area Technology Center, Glasgow, Ky., bronze.
NEXT YEARThe 45th SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference will be June 20-26, 2009 again in Kansas City, it was announced. Officials said the event will continue in Kansas City through 2014 after which it will relocate to Louisville, Ky.
For more information, visit www.skillsusa.org.