Last June in Kansas City, MO, over 4,000 contestants in 73 separate technical disciplines competed for top awards the SkillsUSA Championships.

The philosophy behind the competition, according to the event organizers, “is to reward students for excellence, to involve industry in directly evaluating student performance, and to keep training relevant to employers’ needs.”

Jory Leksen, an HVACR student at Minneapolis Technical College, won the gold medal in the HVACR category. Leksen, 32, had to demonstrate his troubleshooting skills and his refrigerant identification and recovery/ evacuation knowledge. He also had to answer a number of questions on theory and procedure, among several other things.

From my recent interview with Leksen, I have the impression that this man can take his skills almost anywhere he wants. He seems happy to tell others about his career decision and why he thinks the HVACR trade is the place to be. It is refreshing to speak with a person who is so high on the trade.

It is also reassuring to know that his efforts are completely supported by his school and his instructor, Pat Cramer. Cramer formerly worked in the field and is now teaching the basic HVACR courses at Minneapolis Technical College. He accompanied Leksen to the championships.


Leksen admitted that his love for electronics has been the basis for moving into the HVACR trade, having tinkered with electrical gadgets as a kid. But the number of opportunities to use his electrical knowledge in this field convinced him that he was making the right career decision — even after spending several years in a totally different profession. He had been working as a truck driver, and he had to support his family while taking his career in a new career direction.

“I’m handy with electrical things,” said Leksen. “I’ve worked on my own furnaces and air conditioners before.”

Leksen actually was sidetracked into the HVACR field after he got a “sales pitch” for the HVACR field from the college. “There were too many electrical students and not enough in HVACR,” he said. “Since the electrical and HVACR courses were run simultaneously, I got the chance to work on furnaces and A/C units and enjoyed the experience.”

Leksen said that once he finishes his formal education, he’d like to get some field experience and then “see what’s available.”

“There are so many opportunities, such as building automation,” he added. “I’d like to work for a company that I could advance in and move my career along.”

Leksen said that no one initially steered him into the HVACR field, including high school teachers, but now that he has chosen it, his friends and family are very supportive.

“My family stands behind me more than I could possibly have asked for,” he stated.

He’d like others to know what an interesting trade it is, too.

“There are quite a few friends of mine who seem interested in this field,” Leksen said. “I’ve given them the sales pitch to go back to school and get out of occupations they don’t like.

“There are many positives about the trade — the chance to make a decent wage, the variety of jobs available, etc. There is no end to your possibilities, especially up here in Minnesota.”

Leksen prefers to stay in the Minneapolis area with his wife and young daughters. And I have no doubt that one lucky Minneapolis contractor will be happy to employ his services. I just wish our trade had a lot more like Jory Leksen.

For more information on the SkillsUSA-VICA competition, visit (website).

Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 734-542-6214; 734-542-6215 (fax); or (e-mail).

Publication date: 08/12/2002