LOUISVILLE, Ky. — In 1965, an international group of leaders with foresight and approximately 200 students and teachers held a conference in Nashville, Tennessee. This gathering commenced the event now recognized as SkillsUSA.

This year, the 50th annual SkillsUSA Championships welcomed more than 16,000 students, teachers, and industry partners, June 24-25 at the Kentucky Exposition Center (KEC) and nearby sites during the weeklong 51st National Leadership and Skills Conference.

The majority of the contests at SkillsUSA Champions at Work® were spread throughout the 1.3-million-square-foot KEC West, North, East, and South wings. Five off-site contests were held at the adjacent Crowne Plaza Hotel, and the firefighting competition was held at the nearby Kentucky Regional Fire Training Academy.

Delegate meetings and SkillsUSA University seminars were held in the West Hall. Also, in the midst of the championships was the SkillsUSA three-day TECHSPO, a large career and technical education trade show.

Fifty-nine HVAC contestants participated in the HVACR category. Prior to the actual competition, each person took a written exam on Tuesday and received orientation information as well as an industry update from Warren Lupson, director of education, Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), and a member of the HVACR technical committee that supports SkillsUSA. Wednesday included a mandatory brazing training class, and HVACR contestants rotated through six test stations on Thursday. Each station was sponsored by an HVACR company, many of which provided judges for their respective areas.

Carrier Corp. sponsored the superheat, subcooling, and airflow stations; Lennox Intl. Inc., air conditioning and electrical troubleshooting; Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), refrigerant recovery and identification; Harris Products Group, a Lincoln Electric Co., brazing; Hussmann Corp., refrigeration/electrical troubleshooting; and Emerson Climate Technologies Inc., condenser troubleshooting. Each sponsoring company provided training equipment, materials, or supplies. In addition, many of the companies provided prizes for first-, second-, and third-place finishers.

Winners were selected based upon completion times, safety, and accuracy. Written test results served as a tiebreaker for the HVACR contestants.


In the plumbing competition, contestants had to rough-in hot and cold water lines with copper tubing and rough-in sanitary drainage, waste, and vent lines with cast-iron and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic for a water closet, lavatory, washer box, and floor drain. Water pipes were pressure-tested on completed projects. Professional plumbers and pipefitters judged the contestants on the basis of accuracy, workmanship, proper selection and use of tools and supplies, and proper safety procedures.

Sheet metal contestants were tested on their ability to connect sheet metal pieces with drive cleats, spot welding, and riveting. The skills tested could include, but were not limited to, straight duct, transition fittings, and 45-degree-entry tap fittings. Professional sheet metal workers judged the contestants on the use of hand tools, correctness of layout, and shop safety procedures, in addition to the general requirements of accuracy, completeness, and craftsmanship.

More than 6,000 outstanding career and technical education students — all state contest winners — competed in more than 115 different hands-on trade, technical, and leadership fields. Students worked against the clock and each other, proving their expertise in occupations such as electronics, computer-aided drafting, precision machining, medical assisting, and culinary arts. Contests were run with the help of industry/trade associations and labor organizations. Test competencies are set by each industry. Leadership contestants demonstrated skills, including extemporaneous speaking and conducting meetings by parliamentary procedure. The competition was open to the public, free of charge.

While the competition was the largest draw, a number of additional activities helped make this year’s event the most attended in conference history. State and national committee and alumni meetings and learning opportunities were held on Saturday and Sunday, including three training conferences at the downtown Kentucky International Convention Center. Monday saw more meetings and training. On Tuesday, the opening ceremony was the first official conference event. Caterpillar Inc. and Snap-on Inc. cosponsored the ceremony with Snap-on’s CEO, Nick Pinchuk, keynoting at KEC’s Freedom Hall. Wednesday was the first day of competition for many attendees.

SkillsUSA University, a program of educational seminars, was available to all participants Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. It was sponsored by Newell Rubbermaid (hilmor, Irwin Tools, and Lenox brands).

SkillsUSA TECHSPO was located on the competition floor. Products were available to purchase from SkillsUSA’s sponsors and vendors in both indoor and outdoor exhibits.

The week capped off with the awards ceremony, sponsored by Lowe’s Cos. Inc., Friday evening at KEC’s Freedom Hall.

Formerly known as the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA), SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers, and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce.

The national competition showcases public high school and college/postsecondary students enrolled in career and technical education programs. SkillsUSA organizes the annual event, which is considered one of the greatest days of industry volunteerism in America, at an estimated cost of more than $36 million. Each SkillsUSA Championships contestant is a state-level gold medalist.


• First-place Secondary — Andrew Shupert, Warren County Career Center, Lebanon, Ohio

• First-place Post-secondary — Matthew Boden, Mitchell Technical Institute, Mitchell, South Dakota

• Second-place Secondary — Krzysztof Zamajtys, Eastern Suffolk BOCES — Milliken Technical Center, Oakdale, New York

• Second-place Post-secondary — Josiah Tiegs, Saint Cloud Technical and Community College, Saint Cloud, Minnesota

• Third-place Secondary — Dustin Curtis, Red River Technology Center, Duncan, Oklahoma

• Third-place Post-secondary — Brandon Martin, Rowan Cabarrus Community College, Salisbury, North Carolina

Publication date: 7/27/2015

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