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Monday, 16 March 2015 00:00

LA SkillsUSA High School Competition Right Around the Corner, Qualifiers Head to Nationals in KY

Since its founding in 1965, SkillsUSA has provided high school and college students from across the country with the opportunity to put their array of talents to the test.

According to the SkillsUSA homepage, “More than 300,000 students and advisors join SkillsUSA annually, organized into more than 17,000 sections and 52 state and territorial associations. Combining alumni and lifetime membership, the total number impacted this year is more than 335,000.”

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That's 11.2 million people impacted in the last 50 years.

Students in the automotive sector hone their skills into one of two specializations: automotive collision repair and automotive refinish.

Louisiana holds two qualifying contests; one for high school students and one for post secondary students across the state. The post-secondary or college competition was held on March 17, 2015 in Shreveport. The high school contests will take place on April 15-17 at Terrebonne Career & Technology High School in Houma.

“Some viewing from the public is allowed during the state contests,” said Bill Burnside, who serves on the board for SkillsUSA Louisiana and the Northwest Louisiana Collision Repair Association. “Parents can take pictures during breaks, and school officials can take a walk through, but advisors are prohibited from interacting with students.”

Students may ask the judges procedural questions, but nothing technical.

“We try to base the state contest as close to nationals as possible,” added Burnside, who has attended national competitions in the past.

The collision repair students are judged on their welding, plastic repair, body filler, and frame skills. The automotive refinish students are critiqued on panel blending with color, masking, mixing of primers, matching a color, color theory, and color identification. Both groups are required to complete a series of interviews and estimate writing, explained Burnside, who also manages ColorMaster Automotive Paint in Shreveport.

“Twelve students in high school and twelve in post-secondary compete at the state level,” he said. “Then, one high school student and one post secondary student—the gold medal champions—will advance to nationals.”

The students are judged by people in the industry, including other NWLCRA members, technicians, and body shop owners and managers.

“Once they start interacting with owners, technicians, and other leaders in the field, it gives them a chance to connect by creating a relationship with future employers” said Burnside. “The students remember that. The guys and gals that have a key interest in it will look back and think, ‘I remember that guy; he judged me in the SkillsUSA competitions.’ It gives them something to commit to.”

With the shortage of new generation industry workers, the SkillsUSA competitions play an even bigger role in “helping younger people get excited about collision repair.”

“There are a lot of variables that cause the shortage of technicians. You can't be lazy; it's hard work,” said Burnside. “We have competition from the oil industry, and other big level jobs. Entry level guys and gals can’t make money until they develop their skills sets.”

Industry support helps makes the competitions possible, he added, especially contributions from State Farm Insurance.

The SkillsUSA National Championships will be held from June 22-26 in Louisville, KY.

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