SkillsUSA’s Mobile Electronics Installation program, which trains high schoolers and adults in 12 volt tech, held its finals the week of June 20 in Atlanta.
The program was smaller than usual this year, as was the entire SkillsUSA finals program for all trades, due to the pandemic.
In Mobile Electronics Installation, six high schoolers and one adult, each champion installers in their state, were judged with two winners emerging. More students would have participated but five dropped out at the last minute, as their schools could not pay travel expenses, said Chris Jack, Technical Chairperson for Mobile Electronics Installation for SkillsUSA. Next year, as many as 30 students are expected to participate in the finals, he said.
The program was threatened with losing funding earlier this year, but industry members stepped in, contributing more than $20,000 to keep the program going for at least the next 5 years. Dealers in need of installers can find instructions at the end of this article on how to involve their local high schools in the SkillsUSA Mobile Electronics program. They can then recruit the students who are trained along MECP guidelines.
This year Kicker became involved in the judging, through Aaron Malin, Kicker’s Global Sales Training Manager. He was joined by Scott Dilbeck, co-owner of Southern Thunder Car Audio in Atlanta.
Dilbeck had once been a SkillsUSA student in carpentry. “I did SkillsUSA when I was in high school in 2007, 2008 and loved it….” He heard about the program on Kicker’s weekly “Unmasked” broadcast and asked to join up.
Malin went to trade school through VICA, Vocational Industrial Clubs of America, which eventually became SkillsUSA.
“We hear from retailers on a regular basis that they cannot find qualified people to hire. Take out qualified…they can’t find people to hire. We see this as an opportunity to create the next wave of enthusiasts who are not only passionate about the industry, but also knowledgeable….” said Malin.
“Yes, we feel we could get a pipeline of new installers through the program,” he added.
Students can become MECP certified as part of the program, he said.
Jack, Dilbeck and Malin said the enthusiasm among the contestants and suppliers wishing to get involved was extraordinary.
“I think the students were fantastic. Every one of them taught me something… ” said Dilbeck. “If I could, I would have hired every single one. I’m being serious and straight up with you.”
He is also a distributor for Sundown Audio , which is looking to set up a tent at the event in the future.
Suppliers can bring demo cars and exhibits to the finals for the purpose of student instruction and educational tools.
With the monies contributed this year, Jack replaced all the contest’s equipment, which was 10 years old, including new radios and dashboards. With minimal additional support, the program can now run for the next five to seven years, said Jack.
Two of the finalists have already been contacted by employers. Those wishing to contact any of the contestants can email Chris Jack at [email protected]
If you are short on installers and want the program to come to your area, check to see if your local high school participates in the general SkillsUSA program for all trades. If so, you can tell the principal you are seeking installers, and the school can start a mobile electronics section. Jack says there is money for the programs at the schools and the curriculum is available.
“The schools are saying, ‘We didn’t know there was a need.’ SkillsUSA has been trying to tell them for years. It’s up to the shops to inundate the schools,” said Jack. Any dealer approaching a school may leave Jack’s contact info with the principal, and he can help them get started.
12 volt donors who are helping to fund the program include Sony Electronics, Kicker, Certified Sounds, Hawaii, Davis Distribution Systems, Dow Technologies, Murfco, Inc, Mid-State Distributing Company, AM Merchandising, GoFast Solutions. DAS Companies Inc., Autmotive Distributors of Alaska, Cerwin Vega/Diamond Audio and JBL/Infinity.