KANSAS CITY, Mo. - How would you feel if technicians looking for a job came to you with high ethical standards, superior work skills, a lifelong commitment to education, and pride in the dignity of work?

You'd probably feel like hiring them on the spot and begin wondering if they have any siblings around. Meanwhile, the realist in you may be wondering if such a scenario is possible.

In looking at the workforce of the future that might have such values, one place to take a look is SkillsUSA, a 40-year-old organization that stresses ethics, skills, education, and pride as it works with high school and college-age students who are pursuing vocational careers. (In fact, at one time SkillsUSA was known as the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America [VICA]).

According to the latest tallies, close to 280,000 students and instructors join SkillsUSA annually, and they are organized into 54 state and territorial associations.

The best of the best gather each summer in Kansas City for the annual SkillsUSA conference and championship, drawing 4,600 winners of state and regional competitions in some 80 different vocational areas.

One such area is HVACR, which this year drew 54 contestants. They were judged in an array of HVACR technologies such as brazing, refrigerant component servicing, air measurement and troubleshooting, electrical troubleshooting, and refrigerant recovery.

Contestants were judged on diagnosing correct service and repair procedures, use of tools and test instruments, speed, accuracy, and safety.

Future employment opportunities comprised one focus of the Career Fair at SkillsUSA.

Applied Instruction

"SkillsUSA is an applied method of instruction for preparing America's high-performance workers in public career and technical programs," said Tim Lawrence, the program's executive director. "It provides quality education experiences for students in leadership, teamwork, citizenship, and character development."

Current statistics report that more than 14,000 teachers and school administrators at the high school and postsecondary levels serve as professional SkillsUSA members and instructors, extending their classroom and lab teaching into the SkillsUSA equation and plugging students into the skills competition structure.

It all culminates one week each summer in Kansas City, in which motivational messages and technical seminars flank the daylong competition showcasing skills.

Ferris State University, which boasts a strong HVACR department, exhibited at SkillsUSA with a stress on its broad range of vocational programs. Here Troy Tissue, coordinator of admissions officers, talks with attendees.
The event is surrounded by a carnival-like atmosphere in which promoters with vocational-related products, training, and services set up elaborate exhibits both inside the Kansas City Convention Center and on city streets outside. Some exhibitors even had booming rock music and hands-on contests (including one in which the winner was the person who held a chainsaw up in the air the longest in 95 degree heat).

There was also a career fair in which businesses, educators, and organized labor groups exchanged information with participants and welcomed résumés.

Among the seminars was one on high humidity solutions presented by Jack Bartell, manager of training services for York. The two-hour presentation for educators and students discussed methods to remove moisture. It covered such topics as using hot discharge gas to reheat air after it passes through an evaporator and using energy recovery ventilators to remove latent heat from outside air being brought into a space for fresh air requirements.

Judge and RSES International President Bob Smith carefully watches a contestant in the HVACR competition.
When you tally up contestants, other SkillsUSA individuals, teachers, families, judges, exhibitors, presenters, and the like, close to 14,000 persons were in town for the event.

The awards ceremony at the Kemper Arena consisted of the presentation of gold, silver, and bronze medals in both secondary and postsecondary categories for each of the 80 vocation areas.

In HVACR, the winners in the secondary division were Phillip Torrence, Chesterfield (Va.) Tech Center, gold; Joshua Keller, Huntingdon County AVTS, Mill Creek, Pa., silver; and Matthew Floyd, Ozarks Tech Community College, Springfield, Mo., bronze.

In the college/postsecondary division, winners were John Patterson, North Dakota College of Science, Wahpeton, N.D., gold; Lane St. John, Gadsden State Community College, Gadsden, Ala., silver; and William Jones, Vernon College, Wichita Falls, Texas.

Working with recovery and vacuum techniques involved monitoring a manifold gauge.

Beyond Kansas City

SkillsUSA features a number of other training aspects such as the Professional Development Program (PDP), which teaches workplace skill competencies in a series of hands-on, self-paced lessons; the Total Quality Curriculum (TQC), which trains students in the quality improvement processes used by industry; Student2Student Mentoring, in which high school students mentor younger students in the area of career development; CareerSafe, a 10-hour online training program developed in cooperation with OSHA to provide students with basic knowledge of safety and credentials desired in the job market; and a Workplace Readiness Certification program, which demonstrates a student's attainment of employable skills.

Lawrence encouraged Kansas City attendees to "use the week as a springboard to the future by taking full advantage of the opportunities offered by SkillsUSA."

"Students, you are here because of your skill, your attitude, and your dedication to excellence," he said. "You are among the best of the best in this national showcase of talent."

Pictured during the medal ceremony for HVACR at SkillsUSA are (front row, from left) Rob Dohse, Carrier, Technical Committee co-chair; high school winners Matthew Floyd, Ozarks Technical Community College (Mo.), bronze; Phillip M. Torrence, Chesterfield Technical Center (Va.), gold; and Joshua L. Keller, Huntingdon County AVTS (Pa.), silver; and Lynne Bosse, Lennox, Technical Committee co-chair. In the back row (from left) are postsecondary bronze winner William Jones, Vernon College (Texas); gold winner John Patterson, North Dakota State College of Science (N.D.); and silver winner Lane St. John, Gadsden State Community College (Ala.).

Sidebar: Who's Who At SkillsUSA

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The who's who in the HVACR component at the most recent SkillsUSA championship in Kansas City was extensive. Manufacturers supplied a plethora of tools of the trade for the first-, second-, and third-place winners, and a number of gifts were included in goodie bags given to all 54 participants. Manufacturers, trade associations, and schools supplied industry professionals who served as judges, seminar presenters, and volunteers in many areas.

To list all who offered their support and/or had a product or person on site would be a daunting task. But for the record, there are official lists of technical committee members and national education team members. Here are those two lists, based on printed documentation supplied by SkillsUSA HVACR officials.

The Technical Committee is comprised of Co-Chair Lynn Bosse, Lennox; Co-Chair Rob Dohse, Carrier; Larry Banas, Emerson; Raymond Granderson, Rheem; James Knutson, Scotsman; Rick Lebeau, JKL Technical Sales; Jerry Meyer, Ingersoll-Rand/Climate Control Technical Learning; Bob Mikell, Carrier; Patrick Murphy, North American Technician Excellence; and Renee Tomlinson, Refrigeration Service Engineers Society.

The National Education Team includes Chair Rick Dorssom, Charles Drew, and George Hoeffner, all of Hillyard Technical Center of Missouri, as well as Todd Huxford of South Central Technical College of Minnesota.

For more information, visit www.skillsusa.org.

Tools of the trade were on display at a number of booths set up by manufacturers in conjunction with the SkillsUSA competition.

Sidebar: Winners Selected In Plumbing Contest

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The six winners of the residential plumbing contest of the SkillsUSA Championships were announced June 24 during an awards session of the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference. The contest was organized and co-sponsored by the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association (PHCC).

The 33 high school and 16 postsecondary plumbing contestants roughed in a variety of fixtures working from a set of specifications. Professional plumbers and pipefitters judged the contestants on the basis of accuracy, workmanship, proper selection and use of tools and supplies, and proper safety practices.

All winners received medallions and tools of their trade and/or scholarships to further their careers and education. The plumbing contest winners in the high school division were Jason Tartaris, Groton, Conn., gold; Shawn Cox, Sanford, N.C., silver; Stephen LaCourse, Jacksonville, Fla., bronze.

Postsecondary winners were Tim Anderson, Jackson, Miss., gold; Chad Schoonover, Orem, Utah, silver; Scott Ford, Medford, N.J., bronze.

For the full list of SkillsUSA winners, visit www.skillsusa-register.org/reports/medalists.aspx.

Publication date: 07/11/2005