A contestant at the ice machine station in the HVACR contest reviews diagnostic information on the inside panel of a Scotsman machine. Watching is one of the judges, News Refrigeration Editor Peter Powell. (Photos courtesy of Craig Moore/SkillsUSA.)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The headline in theKansas City Starsounded ominous enough: “Uncertainty Clouds VICA Event.” In reality, the article was not directly related to the annual SkillsUSA/VICA national championship taking place that week in and around downtown Bartle Hall. However, the topic it covered could have an impact on high school trade and vo-tech funding.

The SkillsUSA/VICA turnout was certainly healthy. Approximately 4,200 high school and post-secondary students spent the week attending seminars on vocational careers, and viewed hundreds of exhibits and information booths, including a number that lined the streets outside, around the hall.

The concern cited in the newspaper — and indeed expressed among SkillsUSA officials — centered on federal grants that eventually trickle down to vocational programs in high schools. SkillsUSA officials said they were concerned about a Bush administration proposal to shift a portion of that grant money from vocational training to programs for improving academic achievement.

A contestant and judge Ken Eising from Carrier Corp. review ground rules in the air measurement event.
Furthermore, they said the remaining monies traditionally granted for vo-tech use could end up being allotted to more community colleges and post-secondary facilities, further watering down resources for high schools.

For those involved with promoting vo-tech, interest in the trades needs be stirred up at the high school level and earlier. Vivian McCormick, Kansas City chairperson of SkillsUSA, said, “The most powerful thing I’ve seen has been this organization’s ability to turn [high school] students’ lives around. College isn’t for everyone.”

Beyond government grants, vocational programs rely on equipment donations and related support from the manufacturing sector. Those in the HVACR sector involved in securing such equipment for vo-tech voiced appreciation for the support from manufacturers, but added that the process is ongoing, especially in trying to obtain some of the newer, state-of-the-art equipment.

Another contestant tries to demonstrate proper and safe procedures in equipment servicing.

The HVACR Competition

The focal point of the week was a day-long competition in 75 skilled-labor events.

One of those 75 skill areas is HVACR. Among the 4,200 overall competitors, 54 were in the HVACR sector — the winners from state and regional contests.

The HVACR contest in Kansas City included 10 workstations covering a variety of applications. Equipment was supplied by manufacturers and came from factories and local supply houses.

The 54 contestants worked their way through the various stations. At each station they were told of either a “customer” complaint, or they were given a specific task to perform. Judges from within the industry watched over each station and awarded points based on the contestant’s ability to diagnose and correct problems, follow proper procedures, and follow safety procedures.

Posing at the awards ceremony are HVACR winners and some of the industry representatives. Front row, left to right, secondary bronze — Nick Keziah, N.F. Woods Technical Center (North Carolina); secondary gold — Kevin Doherty, Tri-County RVTS (Massachusetts); silver — Bradley Webb, Meade County Area Technology (Kentucky); and technical committee member, Rob Dohse, Carrier Corp. Back row left to right, technical committee member Lynn Bosse, Lennox; bronze — Malcolm Persaud, Chattahoochee Technical College (Georgia); gold — Efren Dayola, Illinois Central College (Illinois); and silver — Micah Duffy, Ogden-Weber ATC (Utah).
Gold, silver, and bronze medals were then awarded in each of two categories, secondary (high school) and postsecondary.

In the secondary category, the gold medal went to Kevin Doherty, Tri-County RVTS, Franklin, Mass.; the silver to Bradley Webb, Meade County Area Technology Center, Brandensburg, Ky.; and the bronze went to Nick Keziah, N.F. Woods Technical Center, Mooresville, N.C.

In the postsecondary sector, the gold was given to Efren Dayola, Illinois Central College, East Peoria, Ill.; the silver went to Micah Duffy, Ogden-Weber ATC, Ogden, Utah; and the bronze went to Malcolm Persaud, Chattahoochee Technical College, Marietta, Ga.

The 54 contestants in the HVACR sector of the SkillsUSA championship listen to final instructions prior to the start of the day-long contest.

The Years Ahead

While students were attending several days of seminars then taking part in the competition, government officials from the departments of Labor and Education met with business and industry executives to discuss the funding issue.

The Star noted the most recent championship was the 39th annual, and then stated that “event sponsors are worried whether there will be a 40th year and beyond.”

But SkillsUSA officials noted plans are already underway for a 40th-anniversary event the week of June 21, 2004, and that the Kansas City location is booked through 2008.

“I know the fear is that vocational education will just disappear,” said SkillsUSA spokesperson Thomas Holdsworth. “But I can’t believe employers in this country will just sit by and let it happen.”

An ice machine gets the once over from a SkillsUSA contestant.

Sidebar: Who’s Who In HVACR At SkillsUSA

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Holding a contest in HVACR at the SkillsUSA/VICA national championship requires a number of committee members, manufacturers, and industry organizations.

Serving on this year’s Technical Committee were Rob Dohse of Carrier, cochair; Sherri Wilkerson, Carrier, cochair; Lynn Bosse, Lennox; Peter Van Lanchker, Rheem; Rick LeBeau, JKL Tech Sales; Bob Mikell, Carrier; Pat Murphy, National Association for Technician Excellence; Leslie Sandler, Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Institute (ARI); Les Tatum, Scotsman; Renee Tomlinson, Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES); and Jim Weddendorf, Emerson.

The National Education Team for HVACR consisted of three individuals from Hillyard Technical College in Kansas City — chair Rick Dorssom, Charlie Dew, and George Hoeffner — as well as an industry retiree, Don Dorssom.

Manufacturers and industry organizations acknowledged at the HVACR contest area were ARI, American Tool, Amprobe, A.W. Sperry, Bacharach, Carhartt, Carrier, Channellock, Concept Technology, Cooper, CPS, DeWalt, DuPont, Emerson, Fieldpiece, First Choice, Fluke, Home Depot, Imperial, International Comfort Products, Irwin, J.B., Johnson, Johnstone, J.W. Harris, Key, Klein, Lennox, Leybold, Malco, Mueller, National, Porter, Raytek, RSES, Rheem, Ritchie, Robinair, Scotsman, Smith, Superior, Thermal, TIF, Turbotorch, Uniweld, Uvex, Victor, and Virginia KMP.

— Peter Powell

Publication date: 08/04/2003