Teen Red Bud Place in National Skills USA Event | Republic-Times
Some of Michael Chausse’s earliest memories include his wonder at Matchbox cars and tractors when he was 3 years old.
Now the Red Bud High School alum has some pretty serious gear to show off to work on cars.
Chausse placed fifth at the Skills USA 2021 National Leadership and Skills Conference in Automotive Service Technology after being named a State Gold Medalist.
When Greg Baird, instructor from the Career Center of Southern Illinois Automotive Service, introduced the Skills USA program to the classroom, Chausse had no intention of becoming a member, let alone earning such honors.
“It’s a pretty funny story because at the very beginning of the year, when our teacher, Mr. Baird, was introducing us to all the skills… I kind of brushed it off a bit,” Chausse said. “Then I came home and told mommy and daddy about it, and they were like, ‘You should try and see what happens. “”
After completing the required steps to become a Skills USA member, Chausse entered the regional competition. Baird said the regionals are generally a hands-on competition, but due to COVID-19 they had to be done virtually, along with other stages of the competition. This year it included a qualifying exam and a career preparation test, both performed by computer.
Baird said this qualifying exam is equivalent to the automotive service excellence test that those in the industry take every five years to maintain their certifications.
He estimated that around 200 students took part in this year’s regional competition. Chausse placed first, then moved on with about 40 others to the state competition, 11 of which were other CCSI automotive service students.
The Illinois State Leadership and Skills Conference tested attendees in categories such as motors, pauses, precision measurement, and maintenance skills through various virtual formats, including a tool d evaluation of Electude.
Chausse vividly remembers the day he found out he was the state’s gold medalist via a live stream on YouTube.
“I’m sitting in my bedroom, turning on the TV and putting away laundry or something with the YouTube video playing on my headphones. I’m just listening to it and it happens to Automotive Service Tech… and the guy reading the results says, “From CCSI to Red Bud, Illinois, (third place) is Aiden Albert,” who is the one of the kids in my class. Then second place was someone (from another school), and I’m like “Oh, I wasn’t placed in the state” because, again, I wasn’t expecting be first, ”says Chausse. “Then he reads: ‘CCSI 1st place, Michael Chausse!’ I absolutely did not expect it. ”
The national competition consisted of first place winners from each participating state or territory, and once again Skills USA found a way to make the three-day virtual competition practical. Reputable companies such as Snap On Tools and A-tech have sent equipment to competitors to mimic working on a real car as well as possible.
One of the big events was the Engine Performance Station, which used equipment from Snap On, Baird said.
“The best way to describe it is a video game of a car not running and you can remove parts, change parts, diagnose (problems) and check parts using various diagnostic equipment and tools. , but only in a virtual world, ”Baird explained.
While Chausse said it was a little strange knowing he wasn’t working with a real car, the mock job interview he participated in on Zoom had the biggest learning curve.
“It’s, as you can imagine, different working on a car on a computer than working on a car in front of you, but the job interview part on the computer was really weird because you didn’t can’t come in and shake someone’s hand and it’s hard to read people on the computer, ”Chausse said.
Baird said the high placements of many of his students, including Chausse, during a year of such uncertainty across academia speaks volumes about their character. Chausse has been to CCSI almost every day since the school let out the summer to train for the nationals.
“It would have been an easy year for the high school kids to say, ‘You know what, I don’t do anything more and I don’t pay my dues to be involved in this organization,’ Baird said. “But, for the students who have done it, who have done their best, who have prepared themselves and who have done really well, it just shows their (strong) work ethic. For me… it shows the perseverance of the students.
He also pointed out that the nature of the competition – run by volunteers from large companies like Toyota USA, Snap On and Hunter Engineering – ensures that competitors will be successful on the field.
“There are a lot of industries involved and why this is such a good thing is that it makes the competition valid,” Baird said. “If the industry is running the competition then you know they know exactly what the students need to know (in the field). I like it because if you do well in the skills, you are going to do well in the industry because it is aligned with industry standards from regional to national.
Chausse is already reaping the rewards of its success at Skills USA, moving from sweeping floors and changing car tires at Red Bud’s V8 Speed and Resto Shop to larger maintenance projects.
His work at Red Bud was not his first introduction to body restoration. After admiring vintage cars from a young age, Chausse began restoring his first vehicle around the age of 15.
“My first vehicle was a 1982 Chevy truck which we found for sale at Red Bud for around $ 1,800. I took it home and I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know what I was doing… because I didn’t know anything about cars at all, ”said Chausse. “My uncle is a mechanic in St. Louis, so I asked him a lot, and I just watched a bunch of YouTube videos on how to work the body (and) how to fix mechanical issues that don’t. weren’t going. So I fixed all the rust on the truck and painted it in my garage. It turned out to be pretty decent for someone who didn’t really know what they were doing.
Chausse said that going through all three levels of competition taught him a lot, the humble teenager said one of the biggest lessons was not to rule out opportunities because, in his words, “sometimes, you surprise yourself “.
“I would say the best advice I can give to someone is if you see an opportunity for something – anything you think you’d like to do or even be interested in doing – take the opportunity because you never know where it goes to bring you. This could lead you to be fifth in the country in this area. You never know, ”said Chausse.