IAM Mechanics Local 701 hosted another successful year of the 2018 SkillsUSA Automotive Service Technology competition in Springfield, Illinois.

More than 60 high school and post-secondary students competed for the title this year in the automotive category. This year’s competition consisted of 20 stations on everything from brakes to air conditioning, electrical, wheel alignments and balancing to job prep. Students were given 15 minutes to complete each station.

Watch 360° video of Local 701 Business Rep. Mark Grasseschi instructing students on the AC and battery testing station

See photos from the 2018 SkillsUSA Competition

“Personally, the hardest part for me is the interview,” said Joliet Junior College Student Rachael Bass. “I’m okay with the hands-on stuff. The trickiest part for me is having to talk about myself.”

“The hardest station was either the scope or a lot of the parts,” said Brady Wytrwal from Minooka Community High School. “They gave so many parts – 15 minutes to measure all of those parts was like a time crunch. But, I gave it my all and that’s all you can really do.”

Electrical stations dominated the competition this year. It’s like having a computer on wheels, says Lead Instructor for the IAM Local 701 Automotive Training Center, Louie Longhi.

“It’s very important that they get a good grasp on electrical and electronics because that’s where everything is going,” said Longhi. “There isn’t a part on the car now that doesn’t deal with electricity.”

But none of this would be possible without Local 701 members who volunteer their time to lead the stations. They enjoy giving back and mentoring the next generation of mechanics.

“I like seeing kids achieve,” said Local 701 retiree Mike Rojek. “I ask them what are their career goals and talk to them about the benefits of a union.”

One of the best things about being an auto mechanic, says Rojek, is the work can’t be outsourced. If you need your car serviced, you aren’t going to send it to China.

For these future auto mechanics, programs like the SkillsUSA Competition, as well as the IAM Local 701 Automotive Training Center, are essential, says Longhi. It’s an ideal route to the middle class.

“The nice thing about this is it’s showing the schools and students that vocational trades are still there, they’re still a viable option,” said Longhi. “They can make more money sometimes than if they were to go to college. Most of them don’t come out with huge debts like they do when they go into a four-year college.”

More 360° video of the 2018 SkillsUSA Automotive Competition

For more information on the IAM Local 701 Automotive Training Center, click here.