Skills USA National Conference and competition is this week in Kansas City. Based on the information I have, the student to beat in the HVACR division is Andrew Klein.

OK, I guess I’m putting a lot of pressure on this 18-year-old kid from Muskegon, Mich. (Hopefully this does not jinx him, whereby he finishes dead last, a la Big Brown at Belmont.)

Klein, a recent graduate of Ravenna High School, received a nice write-up recently in the localMuskegon Chroniclenewspaper. Klein is the statewide representative at this week’s competition. And, you can bet the Muskegon Area Career Tech Center student will do his best to take home the gold. He beat out 20 other competitors at the state level to take the top prize.

Not very often are HVACR students featured in any newspaper, but there was Klein’s picture, splashed on page 1 of the Local section. And, it was all good news.

As a result of his performance at state competitions this year and last, Klein said he was offered $10,000 scholarships from the University of Northwestern Ohio and a Connecticut institute. He said he chose to accept the offer from Northwestern Ohio to pursue his associate’s degree because his credits will transfer to Ferris State University, which he may attend for a bachelor’s degree.

Depending on his performance at nationals this week, Klein could win a full-ride scholarship. Scholarships will range from $25,000 to the first-place finisher to $6,000 for 10th place.

“He’s got a bright future ahead of him working in this industry,” instructor Tom Skipper told the Muskegon paper. “People in this industry make very good money. And there’s a demand for them, not only locally but across the country. Good service techs are hard to come by.”

It’s also good to see that Klein has a full-time job working for Hurst Mechanical this summer, making a reported $12 an hour. Let’s say it out loud: That sure beats the long hours working for minimum wage that many of his friends will be doing this summer.

At this point in his young life, Klein said he feels his future is “pretty well set” in a career he enjoys because of the problem-solving involved, the variety, and the chance to work indoors and outdoors.

“Everybody needs heating and cooling,” he said. “It’s a job that's not going to Mexico or anywhere else.”

Hmmmm…maybe he should be the technician we get on camera to spread the word regarding a career in HVACR. Think?