KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Who says young people do not want to be a part of the HVACR industry? Amidst the 5,600 vocationally-inclined individuals competing in 94 contests at the annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference, there were 58 in the HVACR event. That was the largest number ever to take part in the HVACR competition.

They had come through local, state, and regional events to reach the national stage. They had committed to sometimes long travel to get to Kansas City, Mo., for five days of meetings and activities. Then they spent eight hours being tested in brazing, refrigerant recovery, and air measurement, as well as servicing of air conditioning, heating, refrigeration, and geothermal equipment — all under the eyes of judges from the manufacturing, wholesaling, and trade association sectors. That day-long hands-on testing in Bartle Hall at the downtown Kansas City Convention Center was preceded by a written exam.

Away from the actual competition, contestants sat in on seminars, a number of which focused on soft skills in terms of customer relations and selling oneself, which were seen as valuable for those seeking to be service technicians.

The record high contestant total in HVACR was seen as a good sign by those involved in organizing the competition as it meant predominately young people wanting to enter the industry and improve their skills.

Todd Huxford, an instructor at South Central College in North Mankato, Minn., who chaired the advisory HVACR National Education Team, sees SkillsUSA as a way to making students “well rounded by taking that extra step. This is more than just something to put on a resume.”

Lynn Bosse of Lennox Industries and co-chair of the Technical Committee for HVACR at SkillsUSA, said, “Here, I see young people, good young people who are going to take care of the country.”

And for his co-chair, Bob Mikell of Carrier Corp., “SkillsUSA encourages kids to give back to the industry.”

The overall impact of SkillsUSA was stressed by Timothy Lawrence, executive director. “SkillsUSA students will be a key to the success of a highly skilled 21st-century work force. If America is looking for a place to demonstrate that career and technical education is preparing students to be college and career-ready, this is it.”

When the scores were tallied in each of the 94 contests, the top three high school and top three college/post-secondary students were awarded gold, silver, and bronze medals during an elaborate awards ceremony in the historic Kemper Arena that once was home of the NBA basketball team Kansas City Kings and was site of the 1976 Republican National Convention.

Earning Medals

In the HVACR contest, high school winners were Brock Miesner of Perryville (Mo.) ACC, gold; Ricky Curtis, Red River Technology Center, Duncan, Okla., silver; and John Ragas, Locklin Tech, Milton, Fla., bronze.

In the college/post-secondary sector, medals went to Christopher Sorrentino, Ocean County Vo-Tech School-Brick Center, Brick Town, N.J., gold; Jeremy Beck, Salt Lake City (Utah) Community College-SAT, silver; and Justin G. Ballenger, Greenville (S.C.) Technical School, bronze.

In addition to Huxford, the National Education Team consisted of James Hanway, Northland Career Center in Missouri; Richard Shurtleff, Chariho Regional School District of Rhode Island; and James Tankersley of Altamaha Technical Center of Georgia.

Joining co-chairs Bosse and Mikell on the Technical Committee were Larry Banas, Emerson Climate Services; Mike Eckstein, Refrigeration Service Engineers Society; Bob Henson, Harris Products Group; Les Karcher, Carrier Corp.; Rick Lebeau, JKL Technical Sales; Warren Lupson, Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute; and Bill Roberts, Lennox Industries.

Sidebar: Speaking From Experience

When you can get Lynn Bosse, Todd Huxford, and Bob Mikell to slow down enough to sit down for a few minutes during the annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference, you find out a number of things.

For one, the trio — two of whom are co-chairs of the Technical Committee for HVACR and one who chairs the National Education Team — you discover they have 74 years of involvement with SkillsUSA. And second, they have a number of thoughts on why the organization and the annual event are important both for young people coming into the HVACR industry and the industry itself.

Bosse, with 32 years involved with SkillsUSA (going back to the days when it was VICA), is with Lennox; and Mikell, with 20 years in SkillsUSA, is with Carrier. They are both involved with technical training with their respective companies. They chair the nine-member Technical Committee made up of representatives from manufacturers, wholesalers and trade associations. Huxford is HVAC instructor at South Central College in North Mankato, Minn.

For Mikell the SkillsUSA event “encourages kids to give to the industry and for more people to realize that there is something else than a (four-year) college education” that can produce a productive and valuable worker.

For Bosse, the week in Kansas City leaves a favorable impression. “I see thousands (there were more than 5,600 contestants in 94 disciplines competing in 2012) and I see them during the week in white shirts, ties, nice slacks. They are kicking up their heels, but they are good young people who are going to take care of the country. They are the core of the country.”

For Huxford, taking part in a SkillsUSA competition allows for a “well-rounded technician and a way to network for job opportunities” in noting the number of manufacturers with representatives in attendance.

Publication date: 8/6/2012