TSTC Auto Collision and Management Technology student and future SkillsUSA competitor Anthony Luna prepares a front-end section hood panel for a paint job on a 2004 Ford Focus. Among the SkillsUSA competitions in which TSTC students can compete are Auto Refinishing Technology and Collision Repair Technology.

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – February is a time to celebrate technical skills.

Feb. 6-10 is SkillsUSA Week, a time for high school and postsecondary advisors to promote the organization and the benefits that students can gain from it.

SkillsUSA is a professional organization focused on employability, leadership and technical skills that can help high school and college students pursue successful careers and be part of a skilled workforce. SkillsUSA has more than 100 categories of competition for high school and postsecondary students, ranging from 3D Visualization to Welding Sculpture.

Texas State Technical College’s Harlingen campus kicks off the SkillsUSA season by hosting the SkillsUSA Texas District 13 Leadership and Skills Conference on Feb. 17-18. Off-site contests will be held during the month at high schools in the Rio Grande Valley.

Students who win gold medals will move on to the SkillsUSA Texas Leadership and Skills Conference in April in Corpus Christi.

Jose Vasquez, TSTC’s Auto Collision and Management Technology program director in Harlingen, said he has served for nine years as a SkillsUSA secondary (high school) judge.

“I have enjoyed the familiarity of technical skills in collision repair and refinishing techniques from high school students,” he said. “Their combination of refined hard and soft skills, and communication and problem-solving skills, was impressive.”

Heather Sauceda, TSTC’s Vocational Nursing program director in Harlingen, has been a SkillsUSA judge for three years.

“Based on my observations, high school competitors are well organized,” she said. “Their purpose is to represent their school and bring back awards. That systemized approach is utilized by my college participants.”

Sauceda also has experience working with TSTC students to compete at the postsecondary level for SkillsUSA. These students will compete at the SkillsUSA Texas Postsecondary Leadership and Skills Conference in April in Houston.

“Last year was the first time my Vocational Nursing students competed in the categories of Medical Terminology and Medical Math,” she said. “My key advice was to be prepared and demonstrate confidence. I knew their skills would not only impress the judges, but also demonstrate a readiness for the Texas workforce.”

Ray Longoria, an instructor in TSTC’s Biomedical Equipment Technology program, has worked with TSTC students for the Job Skill Demonstration competitions.

“The students who showcase their acquired skills make the best competitors,” he said. “They have performed at elite levels academically and have vast knowledge of medical device troubleshooting. They must demonstrate superior analytical skills and troubleshoot patient-monitoring devices rapidly.”

TSTC students who win gold medals at the state level will join winning high school students at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in late June in Atlanta, Georgia.

For more information on SkillsUSA, go to skillsusa.org.

For more information on TSTC, go to tstc.edu.

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