Jacob Cooper of Blandford, a junior in automotive technology at Westfield Technical Academy, competed in the national SkillsUSA Championship in Atlanta on June 21-23, after winning first place and a gold medal in the diesel equipment technology competition at the 2022 SkillsUSA Massachusetts state championship in April.
The annual SkillsUSA conference is a showcase of career and technical education where more than 5,200 outstanding career and technical education students — all first-place state contest winners — compete hands-on in 108 different trade, technical and leadership fields.
Cooper ranked 19th in the national competition, the first student from WTA to participate in diesel technology. During the SkillsUSA competition, the students worked against the clock and each other, proving their expertise in diesel equipment competing at several different stations such as precision measurement, live engine, electrical systems, shop skills, chassis, transmission, drive axle, job interview, hydraulics, vehicle inspection, failure analysis, braking systems and operator environment.
Students also completed an ASE written test and a SkillsUSA professional development test. All contests are run with the help of industry, trade associations and labor organizations, testing competencies set by industry for entry-level workers in their field.
“We are very proud of Jake’s accomplishments, and he said he learned some new things,” said Maureen Baillargeon, his SkillsUSA chapter advisor, and Dustin Raney, his automotive service technology teacher, who accompanied Cooper to the competition.
In addition to his education from WTA’s automotive service technology shop, some of his diesel knowledge comes from his family’s business, Cooper Excavating and Trucking in Blandford, and his cooperative educational experience from Advantage Truck Group in Westfield, his teachers said.
After winning gold in the state competition, Cooper, who will be entering his senior year at WTA in the fall, said his ultimate goal is to start his own business.
“I’d like to get my own road service truck and go to job sites and fix pickups and semis on site. I want to move into equipment repair,” he said, adding there is a need for that sort of business in Western Massachusetts.
Founded in 1965, SkillsUSA is a nonprofit partnership of students, teachers and industry that empowers its members to become world-class workers, leaders and responsible American citizens. The SkillsUSA framework of personal, workplace and technical skills grounded in academics inspires work and life success for students while helping industry close the skills gap currently leaving millions of skilled trade jobs unfilled.
Through SkillsUSA’s career competitions program and curricula, employers ensure schools are teaching relevant technical skills, and with SkillsUSA’s credentialing process, they can assess the career-readiness of their future employees. SkillsUSA’s membership of more than 340,000 students and instructors encompasses middle schools, high schools, colleges and post-secondary institutions in every state and three U.S. territories. SkillsUSA programming covers 130 trade, technical and skilled service occupations, and is recognized by the U.S. departments of Education and Labor as integral to career and technical education. For more information, visit www.skillsusa.org.