“A glimpse at what today’s students are doing to prove
they have what it takes to be tomorrows technicians.”
By: Peter Rudloff
Dive into any technician forum or open any technical magazine and you are likely to encounter an article indicating that our trade is desperate to find new technicians to replace those who are closing in on retirement. The automotive trade, in particular, requires a balance of intelligence and reasonable physical conditioning. The ideal person that fits this unique skill set is not commonly found and this creates the basis for stories about technician shortages.
While not common, tomorrow’s technicians are out there and I recently had the privilege of spending a day watching some of the Philadelphia area’s best high school students compete in a competition for some pretty serious prizes. Sponsored by the Auto Dealers CARing for Kids Foundation, which is the philanthropic arm of the Automobile Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia 2015 marked the 22nd year for Tech Comp.
The competition is open to area high school seniors enrolled in automotive programs and begins at each school year with a written qualifying exam. The two highest scoring students from the top twelve schools are qualified for the hands-on competition at Automotive Training Center’s Warminster, Pennsylvania campus in late winter. The hands-on competition consists of a Pre-Delivery Inspection and multiple workstations ranging from Engine Mechanical to Communication Skills. The winning duo earned an all-expense paid trip to the National Automotive Technology Competition at the New York Auto Show to compete for more prizes, as well as a full ride scholarship to Automotive Training Center.
An interesting and truly refreshing part of the day was hearing the opening remarks of Kevin Mazzucola, the director of ADAGP, as he addressed the contestants prior to the competition commencing. Kevin talked about the value technicians have in the bays for the organizations they work for, stating specifically that technicians are the backbone of any dealer’s survival. He also elaborated on how it has become more difficult to find and develop young technicians into the rolls that are needed in today’s modern repair bays.
After the commencement meeting, the teams were split off with their guides who would escort contestants to each stage of the competition. I had the privilege of being able to observe different contestants at different stations and see firsthand how tomorrow’s technicians are shaping up.
My first stop was the electrical station. Contestants were tasked with demonstrating basic fundamentals in measuring, building and documenting circuits related to auto field. Voltage drop, recording resistance and utilizing OHM’s law to calculate circuit resistance were all part of this test. Knowing how often seasoned techs cannot perform OHM’s law calculations, I was impressed at the number of high school grade kids that could.
Hunter Engineering had a large presence for the alignment portion of the test. Utilizing a non equipment specific approach, contestants were tasked to prove they had the ability to fundamentally read specs and make adjustments on a live car. A second portion was knowledge based, which emphasizes overall suspension understanding over skill at making adjustments.
Other stations included a TPMS station where techs must complete a standard tire rotation complete with moving TPMS ID numbers to new location in ECM utilizing TPMS tool. An engine station where contestants show competence in performing compression test, leak down test and installing a timing belt on a 2.4 Chrysler engine. A multi point under car check similar to what you would find in any professional auto repair shop that included a basic check list, verify good components and identify 8 bugs. There was a Pre Delivery Inspection station that simulated real world inspection of a vehicle prior to sale in a dealership setting.
A Basic Automotive Fundamentals station tested students on their ability to identify basic fasteners and other automotive related components. There was an interview room where students turned in a resume and were interviewed by professionals in our field that interview technicians on a regular basis.
One of the more difficult stations was a diagnostic test where contestants were tasked and measured on proper testing techniques for a check engine light concern on a 2006 Jeep. Any technician knows that drivability diagnostics are generally going to be your most difficult task in a real world shop and I think that was evident here.
While contestants were competing, their High school teachers were treated to a free class on PN Semiconductors and how they work, which helped them not only understand the value semiconductors bring, but added to their NATAF yearly training credits.
This year’s 1st place team hailed from Middle Bucks Institute of Technology. Brian Moss and Viktor Pokrachinskiy eclipsed the rest of the field and will go on to represent their area in NY at the national competition. Tim Kramer and Austen Sallada placed 2nd and Edward Anskis and Mattew Gardner rounded out the top three at third place. One unique thing about Tech Comp is there are no losers. Every competitor goes home with prizes that will help them build their future as tomorrow’s automotive technician. All told, the teams will split over $900,000 in scholarships and prizes which should give all these contestants a healthy start into the automotive trade.
The Middle Bucks team went on to place 2nd in the national competition in New York, the highest placing by a Philly team ever. When asked what this competition meant to him Viktor Pokrachinskiy said:
“ The win signified that I really know what I am doing and that my efforts will take me far in the field; if I could put in the same effort and the same drive that I did for the Tech Comp”
With talent and character like this entering the automotive trade, I think all of us should feel better about the future of the trade we care so much about.