Juan Contreras, a student in the automotive technology program at St. Louis Community College, captured seventh place in the automotive skills competition at the 2018 SkillsUSA Championships last month in Louisville, Ky.
More than 6,000 students enrolled in career and technical education programs participated in hands-on competition in 100 various trade, technical and leadership fields. Contreras was among the contenders working against the clock and each other for two days for the chance to prove their expertise in occupations such as computer-aided drafting, electronics, medical assisting, machining, automotives and culinary arts.
Representing the state of Missouri, Contreras presented the importance of fastener torque and torque wrench operation and specifically demonstrated how to accurately torque lug nuts.
“Not only have I gained in-depth knowledge of the subjects I have already presented, but the SkillsUSA competition has also helped me gain labor force experience and knowledge such as proper work ethic, conduct and skills that are required to be successful in today’s labor industries,” Contreras said.
“The feeling of being a competitor was exciting,” he added. “The most exciting part about competing was the lively atmosphere with the music, lights and the large crowd of people. The opening ceremony was crazy, it felt like a party.”
Joe Jackson, automotive technology adviser, said: “Placing seventh out of 26 states, Juan represented STLCC with great pride.”
Contreras qualified for the event by virtue of his first-place finish in the Job Skills Demonstration contest at Lewis and Clark earlier this year. He is a second-year student in the automotive technology program offered at STLCC-Forest Park. Originally from San Salvador, El Salvador, Contreras’ passion for motors began at 15 while working on cars with his father.
“Neither of us knew what we were doing, but we learned together,” he said. “When I was in high school, I did not know that automotive technology was even an option to study. Once I found out that that it was an option, it was clear to me what path I was taking.
Contreras, who will graduate in spring 2019, plans to stay and work at his current job, Bimmers R Us, as a technician. Eventually he’ll complete his bachelor’s degree and one day own an auto shop.