Claremore student places 3rd at SkillsUSA

Dustin Stewart was one of 11 students from Northeast Tech’s Claremore Campus who earned the right to compete in a national CareerTech Student Organization competition, and he was one of only three Claremore students to reach the podium. 

“Having the medal draped around my neck was my favorite moment of the week,” Stewart said. “The many hours of studying paid off.” 

From mid-April through early July, thousands of students across the nation compete in skills contests as part of their chosen CareerTech Student Organization (CTSO). After placing first at his state competition, Stewart traveled with his instructor, Ron Stearnes, to Louisville to compete in the SkillsUSA National Competition. 

“Dustin competed in Mobile Electronics Installation,” Stearnes said. “The contest consisted of hands-on testing of several areas, these included installing a radio in a dashboard, soldering technique, hooking up a car alarm and a door lock relay, and troubleshooting. He also had to take a general knowledge test, complete a job interview and a customer service scenario.”

The massive competition stretched for more than two miles in the event center in Louisville, and with so many people and activities under one roof, it was not the typical testing environment. 

“Staying focused was difficult,” Steward said. “There were many distractions, and things you wouldn’t expect like the Secretary of Education walking by with all the Secret Service officers and such.”

Stewart’s competition took two days to complete. The first day was a three hour written test, the second day was the hands-on portion which had eight stations with 35 minutes for each, all covering different parts of the electrical systems in automobiles.

“The key word for preparation was practice,” Stearnes said. “Dustin spent many hours in the shop working on the skills that he would be tested on. In addition, he took many practice tests in preparation for the test.”

When he wasn’t practicing or competing, Stewart was able to visit a few of the attractions in Louisville. 

“I really enjoyed going to the Louisville Slugger Museum and watching bats being made,” Stewart said.

Stewart plans to return to Northeast Tech next year to earn additional certifications in the Home Automation Program, and Stearnes is hopeful his success will inspire incoming students to train for and compete in skills contests. 

“It’s important for students to participate in these events, because they are tested on scenarios and situations from real world applications. They get to meet students from all over the country and get feedback from the judges, who are all master installers,” Stearnes said. “It’s a stressful competition, but a fun, worthwhile experience.”