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Thursday, 19 March 2015 00:00

NYS SkillsUSA Championships 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 automotive repair hone their skills into one of the two specializations: automotive collision repair and automotive refinish.

Anywhere from 40-46 students total from New York’s five regions compete at the state level in these two categories.

The collision repair students work on fenders donated by LKQ. The fenders are dented, and must be made as level as possible using a hammer and dolly method. The students also go through the process of repairing a demo piece of plastic from the 3M Automotive group, explained Ed Arnold, collision repair instructor at Ellicottville Career and Technical Center (ECC), which is part of Cattaraugus Allegany Boces. The judges for the plastic repair portion are 3M training reps.

“With today’s automotive changes, repairing plastic is very cost-effective so it is important for students to learn,” said Arnold.

The students also need to demonstrate competency in structural welding using heat management. Students are required to perform a vertical plug weld as well as a vertical butt weld with backing to I-CAR standards. This section is judged by a certified I-CAR welding instructor. The automotive refinish students are given a 14 x 16 panel with a scratch in the corner. They then sand, prep, prime, flash off, prep again, sand, and repaint the panel a base clear before blending it into the panel. Then they finish with a final clear coating.

These students are also required to mask off a given section of vehicle to simulate a blend and repair. Both the collision repair and the automotive refinishing students are responsible for writing an estimate. The paint refinish students are also interviewed and scored on their responses.  

“As the industry evolves we will continue to make changes to the contest to keep up with new developments in the industry,” said Arnold.

He said that a peer instructor from the Buffalo region had a student in the past who had won the paint refinish contest at the New York state level and eventually went on to compete at the international contest in Germany. He is currently working in the industry. There are between 18-22 industry experts who come in and help judge the students’ performance.

“The industry is very supportive of the two-day event to ensure everything runs smoothly,” said Arnold.

State Farm employees from Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse sit on the judging panel, along with reps from PPG who judge the automotive refinish students on panel recoding. PPG also donates paint materials.

“We try to keep our state competitions as close as we can to the national level, but they have a couple more days to do everything,” said Arnold. “We jam a lot into two days.”

Lincoln Tech College tallies the final scores and the winners are chosen.

The NYS SkillsUSA Leadership and Skills Championships will be held April 22-24 at the NYS Fairgrounds in Syracuse, NY.

“The industry is awesome and will always donate to the cause, as long as I get ahead of the game,” said Arnold.

The SkillsUSA National Championships will be held from June 24-June 25 in Louisville, KY.

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