KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Fifty-one high school and post-secondary students studying for careers in HVACR put their skills to the test as part of the recent SkillsUSA Championship. The 51 participants — 50 male and one female — advanced to the national competition by successfully competing in regional and state SkillsUSA events.

Competitive Spirit

The national event began with a two-hour multiple-choice test based on the Industry Competency Exam (ICE), but modified for SkillsUSA, said test administrator, Pat Murphy, director of training and testing, RSES. He said the exam covered residential and light commercial heating and air conditioning as well as commercial refrigeration.

Two days later the students reconvened on the massive exhibition floor at Bartle Hall in the Kansas City Convention Center (KCCC), one of six venues being used for the 98 contests that made up the championship competition, which itself was just one part of the weeklong National Leadership and Skills Conference. In all, more than 5,900 contestants participated in the event.

For close to eight hours, the 51 HVACR competitors performed hands-on diagnostics and servicing across categories involving brazing, residential furnaces, refrigeration and air conditioning air measurement and system evaluation, refrigeration system troubleshooting, refrigerant system servicing, residential air conditioning electrical system troubleshooting, and geothermal.

As the contest drew to a close, secondary category winners included gold medal winner, Daniel Blizman of Platt Technical High School, Milford, Conn.; silver medal winner, Stephen Zettl of Berks CTC — West Campus, Leesport, Pa.; and bronze medal winner, Jack Russo, Worcester Technical High School, Newark, Md.

In the post-secondary category, Brock Miesner of Linn State Technical College, Linn, Mo., took home the gold; Jason Thompson, Rowan Cabarrus Community College, Salisbury, N.C., won the silver medal; and Cody Hendricks, Lewis-Clark State College, Lewiston, Idaho, was awarded the bronze medal.


The achievement and recognition are especially important to the HVACR industry as the trade seeks to attract younger, skilled workers. That was reflected in all those who were involved as committee members and judges.

A technical committee coordinates the HVACR aspect each year. Co-chairs of the committee were Bob Mikell of Carrier Corp. and Lynn Bosse of Lennox Industries. Also on the committee were Mike Eckstein, RSES; Bob Feathers, Emerson Climate Services; Bob Henson, Harris Products Group; Les Karcher, Carrier; Warren Lupson, Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI); and Bill Roberts, Lennox Industries.

The national education team consists of educators including chair, Todd Huxford of South Central College in Minnesota. Others on the committee were James Hanway, Northland Career Center of Missouri; Richard Shurtleff, Chariho Career and Technical Center in Rhode Island; and James Tankersley, Altamaha Technical College in Georgia.

The awards and recognition publication of the National Leadership and Skills Conference credited “other support” in the HVACR contest to Apex Tool Group LLC, Appion Inc., Carhartt Inc., CPS, Fluke Corp., KAKSO, Irwin Industrial Tool Co., JB Industries, Lowe’s Cos. Inc., Midwest Tool and Cutlery, Milwaukee Electric Tool Co., Malco Products Inc., Ranken Technical College, Regal Beloit Corp., Supco, Timberland PRO, Universal Enterprise Inc., the University of Northwestern Ohio, and Yellow Jacket.

In addition, there were dozens of judges who studied each contestant as they proceeded through the various skills.

Eckstein, who served on the technical committee and as a judge, oversees HVACR systems for the Missouri Department of Corrections. He is also the acting president of RSES Intl. through October. During his tenure as president, he’s focused on promoting more young people to take courses in HVACR with the intention of entering the industry. He considers the 51 to be a low number when compared to other competitions at SkillsUSA.

“It is up to the teachers, mentors, etc. to grab kids and send them to HVACR programs,” he wrote in a recent issue of the RSES Journal.

Then, he said, it is up to the industry “to take them to the next level. These kids participating at SkillsUSA are the best of the best from every state and they all should have jobs when they graduate.”


The week was not just about contests. The close to 6,000 contestants represented various industries. Each participant had opportunities to undergo technical assessments as part of the SkillsUSA Work Force Ready System. Workshops were offered, assisting prospects in such areas as applying for post-secondary study, how to obtain a job, and developing leadership skills.

Exhibitors from colleges and vocational schools joined with those offering information on a wide range of careers to fill several corridors in the KCCC and take over two city blocks outside the building. The outsiders, including many tool manufacturers with exhibits in large tents, overcame high heat and humidity for several days to participate in the event.

Publication date: 8/19/2013 

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