The top 29 California collision repair and auto refinishing students competed at the 46th annual SkillsUSA California State Leadership and Skills Conference in San Diego April 4–7.
These top 29 students came from both northern and southern California high school and post secondary schools to showcase their skills at Mossy Toyota’s collision repair shop off Lovelock Street in San Diego.
SkillsUSA is the largest competition for career and technical education students. The California event involved over 2,100 student, educator and business and industry representatives. Students showcased their skills and abilities through competition and live demonstrations of their technical trade, including automotive, construction, cosmetology, culinary, drafting, electronics, firefighting, graphic communications, health, manufacturing and leadership. These students are the future of America’s workforce.
More than 50 businesses and labor unions worked with SkillsUSA California to help make it happen.
This is the fourth year that SkillsUSA CA has met in San Diego, and the conference is scheduled to remain in San Diego through 2017. Activities during the conference were hosted at the Town & Country Resort and Convention Center facilities along with six offsite locations.
The opening ceremony was held April 4 in the Atlas Ballroom of the Town & Country Convention Center. The Leadership Championships were held Friday and Saturday with over 1,700 students competing in more than 100 skills contests. The banquet dinner was held on Friday night and Awards Ceremonies were held on Sunday.
Tony Coelho, a junior, and Juan Hernandez, a senior, were two of the collision repair students who competed at Mossy Toyota. Both are from Eden Area ROP in Hayward, CA. Tony was getting ready to compete in the paint booth and had already tested his skills in color matching, fender and primer and masking. Tony’s interest in collision repair comes from his grandpa, who worked 45 years in a body shop.
Erica Criley, 20, was the only female competitor in automotive refinish this year. She represented Central County Occupational Center in San Jose, CA. Erica, who has an art background and comes from a family of mechanics, wants to become a custom painter and have her own shop someday. She graduates in May. Criley won a silver medal in the contest.
Instructor Daniel Pareja brought 10 students from Eden Area ROP. Seven students competed in refinishing and three students competed in auto body. Pareja has been a teacher for over two years and is a former SkillsUSA winner. He said, back in his day, they had to compete in both auto body and painting. Pareja, as a student from San Lorenzo High School in San Lorenzo, CA, placed first as a senior and third as a junior back in 1996 and 1997.
Ryan Swanson, 24, an estimator with Fix Auto in Mission Valley, CA, and an I-CAR instructor in north San Diego county, participated in this year’s event as a judge for the color tint and color matching section. He is also a former SkillsUSA contender from Ramona High School who went on to nationals and placed 8th. He’s been involved with SkillsUSA the past nine years and wants to be a good role model and mentor to students. He uses himself as an example that the industry is a good career path and often shares with students that he makes $70,000 yearly as an estimator to help prove that the industry can pay well.
“If you work hard, you can make a lot of money in this business,” agreed Hilary Castro, manufacturers representative with Sherwin-Williams.