Tanner Rasmussen didn’t know much about cars when he enrolled in his first auto class at Arbor View High School in Las Vegas.
“I was hesitant at first, but when I started learning more, I thought it was really cool,” he said. “I like knowing if my truck breaks down I know how to fix it.”
The 18-year-old now expects to make a career out of it.
“I plan on opening my own shop later down the road,” he said.
Hundreds of other high school and post-secondary students throughout the state got the opportunity to test their technical skills this week during the three-day SkillsUSA Nevada State Leadership and Skills Championships of 55 competitions in Reno and Carson City.
The welding, automotive service technology and collision repair contests were hosted at Western Nevada College on Thursday.
Carson High School welding teacher Charles Shirley said the competition is good experience for his students, who had to complete a written and oral section as well as several practical stations in different types of welding and cutting.
“It helps them see what’s going on in the industry,” he said.
“It’s great contact for the kids who get to acquire that knowledge and take it back to their programs.”
Jason Spohr, lead automotive instructor at Western Nevada College, said it is equally important for industry leaders.
“The gold-medal winner today would be a valuable asset to anyone in the industry,” Spohr said. “If I was looking to hire somebody, I would be looking to see who won this competition and offer them a job.”
Dennis Marshall, who works at All American Auto Body, has been in the business 40 years and served as the chairman of the collision repair contest.
“From what I can see with these kids here, they’re pretty good,” he said. “And as far as a career path goes, people are going to be driving cars and they’re going to need to get them fixed.”
Winners from the state contests, which include categories such as carpentry, culinary arts, cosmetology, computer arts, photography and more, will advance to the National Leadership and Skill Conference in Kansas City on June 24-28.
For some of the students the skill they’re practicing may lead to a career.
Kyle Dozier, a 19-year-old Truckee Meadows Community College student, started experimenting with welding at a young age.
“I was at home and starting building trailers when I was 12,” he said.
“I figured that was cool so when I was in high school I got into welding classes. It’s like an addiction.”
He’s studying small business and mechanics at college with hopes of working for Cashman Equipment.
Others use the courses to enhance their personal lives. While Brendan Bosch, an 18-year-old senior at Reed High School, plans to study medicine at the University of Nevada, Reno, after graduation, he’s also taken several auto mechanic classes.
“I’ve learned a lot about it and how cars work in general,” he said.
“If I hadn’t taken these classes, I wouldn’t know anything about it.”