University Relations and Communications

City College students to compete at the SkillsUSA state competition

April 1, 2014



Kat Pfau, City College, 247-3044
Carmen Price, University Relations, 657-2269


The statewide competition will be held April 7-9 in Havre. Students who advance will compete at the national-level in June.


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — From fabricating sculptures with a welding torch to fixing old tractor motors, 13 MSUB City College students will compete in this year’s SkillsUSA State Competition April 7-9 at Montana State University Northern in Havre.


SkillsUSA team from City College at MSU Billings

More than 300 secondary and post-secondary students from about 30 schools around the state will compete—at the different educational levels—in various categories including welding, diesel technology, automotive technology, carpentry, drafting and design, technical computing and health and safety.  


Among earning medals and prizes, students compete for scholarships and a chance to compete in June at the national level in Kansas City, Mo.


SkillsUSA is a national nonprofit organization serving teachers and instructors and high school and college students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations.


The partnership of students, teachers and industry professionals aims to ensure the nation has a skilled workforce. Participants meet weekly, working in their respective interests


Wandering the halls and classrooms of City College, you get a sense of the real world applications the competition will feature.

There are students walking around in welding gear talking about how to best design industrial machinery and equipment.


In the lab across the hall, students are busy letting their creative skills shine, making cosmetic repairs on crushed car hoods.


Across campus in the Health Sciences building, students’ focus is on health and safety professions, namely nursing, radiologic technology, criminal justice and fire safety.


Christian WattsFor students participating in the competition, it’s a platform that provides benefits for meeting industry professionals, with the majority of students competing already on the career path they hope to follow.


Take Matthew Tucker of Billings, for example. In a room filled with safety goggles, work boots and Carhartt work pants and jeans, the second-year automotive technology student, like many others enrolled at City College, already sees his future in front of him.


He said he wants to work on projects similar to those of his curriculum and to one day have his own engine performance shop in Billings.


“City College offers practical and hands-on courses for future career purposes,” Tucker said. “For me, it’s about advancing my automotive skills and experience that will make me more competitive in the field.”


He said being a member of SkillsUSA and a student of City College provides him with a gamut of practical workforce skills as well and professional qualities he'll bring to a business.

Christian Watts of Joliet is a second-year diesel technology student. This will be his second year competing at the state level. Last year he placed fourth in his competition.


Watts is a member of Phi Theta Kappa—City College’s Honors Program that recognizes students with a 3.5 or higher grade point average. He says leadership and teamwork are among the many traits he has gained from his involvement with SkillsUSA.


“SkillsUSA teaches us to be champions at work and do the best you can and not give up just when it gets tough,” Watts said.


Across the room is first-year diesel technology student Amanda Thurston. Her competition will involve diagnosing why a diesel truck’s engine won’t start, something she said she works at on a regular basis while she attends classes at City College.


“Competing in SkillsUSA helps students with future employment,” Thurston said. “It’s a way to showcase our dedication to staying current with the most recent technology and spotlights our leadership.”


While the focus is skills training and career preparation, a large part of the club is finding ways to serve in the community. Over the winter, the club organized, promoted and hosted a free vehicle winterization inspection for the community offering evaluations for conditions of batteries, belts, hoses, tires and fluid levels.


The group also works together to raise money to help cover travel expenses and entrance fees for the competition.


“They’ve been very motivated and active this year in raising funds for this competition experience,” the club’s advisor Kat Pfau said. “Each student has contributed greatly to the larger team effort and purpose.”


Pfau said the chance for the 13 students to compete is equally important to the school.


“This is a great way to recognize the success of our students and City College programs,” she said. “Our students work hard and are dedicated to what they are learning and their future careers. Showcasing their success helps spotlight our great programs.”


At last year’s competition, City College students swept two categories, earning gold medals in both automotive and diesel technology.  Four students advanced to the national level. Of those, three placed in the top 25— third place in collision repair, eighth in diesel technology and eleventh in automotive technology.


Students competing this year in automotive techonology are Erik Anderson, Matt Tucker, Adam Solberg, Ian Hannah and Nate Kennedy. Diesel competitors include Christian Watts, Amanda Thurston, Zach Falcon, Chris Murphy and Cory Philhower. Scott Dark, Adam Marman and Brandon Hammond will compete in welding categories.


PHOTO ABOVE: 1) City College students Matthew Tucker, Amanda Thurston, Christian Watts and Beau Zygmond (left to right) are members of SkillsUSA and will compete at its state competition April 7-9 for scholarships and a chance to advance to the national competition; 2) Christian Watts