Autobody News reached out Fred Teed, a gold medal recipient in the SkillsUSA competition, to find out how he is preparing for the national event coming up in June.
Q: Why did you decide to attend Upper Cape Tech School and get involved in this industry?
A: When making the choice between attending Upper Cape Tech (UCT) or Falmouth High, I didn't give it much thought. I was faced with the decision in eighth grade, and at that age I simply didn't appreciate the effects it would have on my life. Ultimately, I chose UCT because I figured if I'm going to spend four years in a building I might as well learn a trade as well as get an education.
Entering Upper Cape, I had full intentions of enrolling in the automotive repair program. My attitude quickly changed after visiting the auto body shop. After my first day in that shop, I knew that's where I wanted to be. The metal fabrication, the painting, the people-- all of these aspects gravitated me into this industry. A short four years after that decision, I have not once regretted it.
Q: Is this your first SkillsUSA competition? What was your reaction when you received the gold medal?
A: This was my first state competition. I went to districts my sophomore year but I failed to place. This year, my senior year, I managed to place gold at both the district and the state level. During the award ceremony at districts, I was positive that I won, so the gold medal was no surprise. Yet states was a different story. I went into the competition with all the confidence in the world, yet I felt my work was subpar.
Immediately after the event, tired and discouraged, I spoke to my advisor about every little thing that I nit-picked with my work. I was sure that I wouldn't place first but I was still hoping for a bronze or maybe even a silver medal. After they announced third and second, a large weight fell on my shoulders. This was my last chance to compete in my field and I had failed to come among the best. Then when I was called to the stage as the Massachusetts state champion, a great joy washed over me. I was more proud of myself than I had been in a long time.
Q: What was the competition entail?
A: Despite having the longest competition of the shops, the day flew by. My fellow contestants and I had to display our skills in metalworking, welding, plastic repair, frame analysis and estimating. To test our employability, they also conducted a hypothetical job interview. I am confident in most of these areas so I was not all that worried. Yet when it came down to it I felt that I didn't meet my usual standard. Despite that, I loved the opportunity and I had an amazing time.
Q: What advice do you have for other students in the collision repair program?
A: The biggest piece of advice I could give to anybody competing or even just working in this industry is that safety is key. Automotive collision repair can be dangerous, thus it is important to exercise caution while working. I am sure that safety played a large role in how the judges scored us. Other than that, all I can really say is to be confident and have fun with what you do.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: Big plans await me following graduation. I aspire to be what used to be commonly known as a Renaissance man. In addition to auto body, I have gained varied experience and a multitude of trades. Immediately following graduation I am going to be leaving my current body shop to spend some time as a plumber’s apprentice. While working as a plumber I plan to hone my auto body skills by flipping cars and doing side work.
Following the summer, I am going to continue my studies at Cape Cod Community College. Thanks to the dual enrollment program, I have already managed to accumulate almost three quarters of the credits required for an associate’s degree. Although I'm not sure where it will take me yet, my major is in engineering. I hope to continue to strengthen my skills in auto body while also developing my new talents.
Q: Can you tell us about the co-op program you are involved with at Cape Auto Collision?
A: Co-op is an excellent experience. It has allowed me to make money learning much more than I could have at my school shop. The main benefit is the increased quantity of work. In one day at my job I am able to complete what would have taken a week at my shop.
To read more about Upper Cape Tech's collision repair program and co-op component, click here.