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Monday, 16 March 2015 00:00

FL SkillsUSA 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 wide-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.”

Automotive collision repair students and automotive refinish students listen intently while they are given instructions for the competition.

Kristen Felder - CollisionHub


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

Students in the automotive sector hone their skills into one of three specializations: automotive collision repair, automotive refinish, and automotive mechanical.Florida has six regional competitions. Up to eight students from each region can qualify at the state level, making 48 the maximum. However, according to collision repair contest chairman, Kirk Cook, usually around 25-40 automotive students advance to the semi-finals.Cook has overseen the competitions for the last three years.

“The judges are industry professionals who are willing to devote time, energy and resources to the event,” he said. “We first look at the advisory board of the host school to see what volunteers are there and reach out to others that have participated in the past...this includes collision repair owners, managers, technicians, and paint and equipment representatives. Time and energy is spent to assure the judges understand what is being measured in the event and all competitors are judged fairly.”

Students in the collision repair group are judged on ASE type test on collision repair, welding, dent repair, and plastics repair, while the automotive refinish students are judged on ASE type test refinish repair, masking, and refinish panel project, Cook explained. Both groups are required to complete a series of interviews and estimate writing.

The automotive mechanical students are judged on all areas of ASE certification, engines, transmissions, a vehicle's drivability and many other factors that make a car tick, added automotive mechanical instructor, Michael Setzer.

Setzer has taught at Sheridan Technical College in Hollywood, FL for 32 years, and has overseen the SkillsUSA competitions for 17.

“On a technological level, every bit of the car is advancing, especially in regards to safety,” said Setzer. “The students are eager to learn and compete. They're all looking to make a decent living at the other end once … the competitions are over with."

Six students, two from collision repair, two from automotive refinish, and two from mechanical automotive, are selected to compete at the national level. The finalists from each division are comprised of one high school student and one post-secondary student.“If you get into the [automotive field] you're going to have a lifetime of learning ahead of you,” said Setzer. “You're not going to learn it and then be able to sit back and live off what you've already learned. We prepare [the students] for that, and at the same time, we prepare them as best as we can for the real-life experiences they're going to be facing the moment they go to work for someone.”

Setzer added, “My recommendation to anyone who hires a student right out of school is to put them with someone that they want them to be a duplicate of, because they'll pick up the good habits and they'll also pick up the bad.”

The SkillsUSA Florida State Leadership and Skills Conference will be held in Lakeland, Florida at the Travis Career Center from April 26-29.

The host school is the main sponsor for the event, according to Cook.

“They are responsible to coordinate and conduct the event, while regional and state committees guide the specifics. I will be working with Travis Career Center to coordinate the refinish and collision events,” he said. “However it takes a tremendous amount of industry support to … provide the facility and consumable items, such as fenders, bumpers, paint, sandpaper, metal panels, and welders. Many businesses have stepped up … such as 3M, LKQ, PPG, and State Farm.”

Cook added, “[SkillsUSA] is succession planning at its grass roots! It helps bring quality trained technicians into the collision repair business, and it helps schools focus on the core skills needed in the ... industry.”

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

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