SkillsUSA Competition prepares young auto technicians

The SkillsUSA awards winners at Voss Collision Center. Photo courtesy of Michael Moore
The SkillsUSA awards winners at Voss Collision Center. Photo courtesy of Michael Moore

The collision center at Voss Chevrolet is usually bustling with technicians repairing collision damage, painting cars and replacing parts; it’s often quite noisy. On a recent Saturday morning, you could hear the tapping of body hammers and dollies, see the bright light of the welders in action, and watch young students carefully sanding body panels, but it was also a fairly quiet and tense scene. A trip to the SkillsUSA state competition was on the line for a few of these 22 competitors.

“The participants are from 11 area career technology schools, with one nominated in each category,” explained coordinator Virgil Neal, himself a retired automotive technology teacher. “They have four hours to complete the tests and the four exercises, and the top three in each category will advance to the state competition later this spring,” he said.

“For the collision repair technology phase, the entrant must repair a dent in metal, repair a dent using plastic filler, repair a gouge in a plastic bumper and perform four types of welds,” Neal added. “In automotive refinishing technology they have to repair a scratch in a fender, refinish it by blending the color, mask a car for painting, and perform the identification of paint codes using the VIN number and other information on the auto.”

For the 10th year, the competition was held at the Voss Collision Center, 100 Loop Road in Centerville. “We’re happy to provide the space, and we also have eight of our employees who serve as the judges,” said Michael Moore, collision center manager. “It’s our pleasure to volunteer our time and space to help these future technicians learn. We hope to give them the sense of working in a state-of-the-art facility, and our staff to gets to see fresh new faces that could be future employees.”

Local companies also provide the tools and supplies to put on the event: Voss donates the space, Weiler Welding donates four new welders and supplies, FinishMaster provides the paint and all supplies for refinishing, and Hertz provides the food and beverages.

“We couldn’t do it without all of this help and support,” Neal said.

He also explained that the industry is in a huge growth period.

“I-CAR, the inter-industry conference on auto collision repair, estimates that there is a shortage of over 300,000 skilled technicians. These jobs are out there, and the top-level students can find a job pretty quickly.”

The results for collision repair technology show that Seth Foulke of Springfield-Clark CTC placed first; Garrett Burton of Miami Valley CTC placed second; Zachary Schulkers of Scarlet Oaks CDC was third; and Andrew Dick of Live Oaks JVS was fourth.

For automotive refinishing technology, Austin Panno of Live Oaks JVS placed first; William Steele of Springfield-Clark CTC placed second; Estuardo Ramirez of Scarlet Oaks CDC placed third; and Logan Jones of Upper Valley Career Center placed fourth.

The Pat Kowalski Memorial Award was presented to Gabrielle McCarroll of Miami Valley CTC. The award, named for the Voss collision center manager who brought the competition to Voss and worked tirelessly to help educate young techs, is presented to the student who exhibits integrity, dependability, initiative, positive attitude and service to others, much as Kowalski did during his life and career.