KANSAS CITY, MO — In many ways, SkillsUSA-VICA is a number-crunching experience.

Consider: Some 12,500 students, teachers, and business partners descend on this Midwest city each summer for five days. Most of the time is set aside for speeches and seminars on what organizers describe as “occupational and employability skills.”

One day is set aside for the SkillsUSA Championship. More than 4,000 vocational and technical students compete hands on in 73 different trade, technical, and leadership fields.

All events took place this year in the massive H. Roe Bartle Hall in downtown Kansas City. The competitors had already won various state and regional competitions.

At this year’s 38th annual conference, 52 people took part in the HVACR competition. One section of the exhibit hall floor was turned over to the HVACR competition. That area was further divided into sections for competitions in areas such as air handling, air conditioning, heating, refrigeration technology, brazing, ice machines, recovery techniques, and more. Industry manufacturers supplied equipment, tools, and test instruments.

The contestants moved from station to station performing hands-on diagnostics and service under the eyes of judges from the industry. The contestants were graded on everything from wearing safety goggles, to use of tools and test instruments, to diagnosis and servicing techniques.


After scores were tallied, the top-six winners — three in the secondary category and three in post secondary — joined winners in other fields on the stage of the Kemper Arena a day later for a massive rally and awards ceremony.

The rally resembled a political convention, with attendees regrouping as part of state delegations. Winners went on the stage to accept their gold, silver, or bronze metals.

The HVACR winners in the secondary category were Nicholas Keziah, Mooresville, NC, gold; Ryan Forbes, San Jose, CA, silver; and Wes Phillips, Seminole, OK, bronze. The post-secondary winners were Jory Leksen, New Brighton, MN, gold; Chad McFarland, Tahlequah, OK, silver; and Robert White, St. Albans, WV, bronze.

In addition to taking part in the general occupational seminars and the competition, the HVACR group were able to sit in on a number of HVACR-specific technical sessions. These included talks by industry experts and an armload of up-to-date handouts.

The medallists took home a veritable mother lode of tools, test instruments, and related items. All items were donated by HVACR manufacturers and industry-related businesses and associations. Those organizations also provided equipment for the competition and the time of their personnel.


In addition to the volunteers who brought in equipment, set up, acted as judges and support personnel during the competition, and conducted seminars, a number of industry representatives served on the HVAC Technical Committee, many of whom did double or triple duty during the week of SkillsUSA.

The committee consisted of chair Rob Dohse of Carrier; Paul Jackey, Bob Mikell, and Jeffery Warther, also of Carrier; Lynn Bosse, Lennox; Steve Hawkins, Rheem; Patrick Murphy, NATE; Leslie Sandler, Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Institute (ARI); Renee Tomlinson, Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES); Jeff Weddendorf, Alco; and Sherri Wilkerson, Copeland.

Serving on the National Education Team for Skills USA were chair Darren Jones of Meade County Area Technical Center (KY); Alice Jones, also of Meade; and Don Dorssom of N.S. Hillyard AVTS (MO).

The committee and education team voiced appreciation for manufacturers and related industry businesses for their support. Those noted were ARI, Alco Controls Division, American Tool, Amprobe Instruments, A.W. Sperry, Bacharach, Carrier, Concept Technology, Copeland, Cooper Instruments, CPS Products, DeWalt Industrial Tool, DuPont, Fieldpiece, First Choice Tool, Fluke, Imperial, Inter-national Comfort Products, J.B. Industries, Johnson Controls, Johnston Supply, J.W. Harris, Key Refrigeration, Klein Tools, Lennox, Leybold Inficon, Malco, Mueller Streamline, National Refrigeration, Porter Cable (Pentair), Raytek, RSES, Ritchie Engineering, Robinair, Scotsman, Smith Equipment, Superior Signal, Thermal Engineering, TIF, Turbotorch, Uniweld, Uvex Safety, Victor Equipment, and Virginia KMP.


Toward the end of the long day of competition, Copeland’s Sherri Wilkerson stressed the importance of industry manufacturers continuing to support SkillsUSA-VICA and, in fact, increasing support.

“Some might wonder about return on investment,” she said. “Well, this is where the industry can see the cream of the crop of young people interested in and committed to this industry.”

She noted that a commitment to SkillsUSA is a commitment to bringing the type of qualified persons into the industry that the industry says it is asking for.

For more information on SkillsUSA, visit www.skillsusa.org (website).

Publication date: 07/15/2002