Thursday, 31 March 2005 09:00

Two techs represent the U.S. in the World Skills competition

Written by Janet Chaney

"To love what you do and feel that it matters - how could anything be more fun!"

-Katherine Graham

Spirit, passion, enthusiasm - and the huge capacity for doing something right describes Teresa Bolton to a T. Bolton, the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) Collision Repair and Refinishing Technical Specialist, spearheaded the efforts to send two SkillsUSA students to represent the United States at the World Skills Competition in Helsinki, Finland next month. Bolton presented her case to the National Auto Body Council (NABC) in April 2004 at its board meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. With a quiver in her voice and determination in her heart, Bolton asked the Council for help. "The United States will not be represented at the World Skills Competition unless we raise the funds to get them there!" she implored.

With NABC board approval, Bolton began the fund-raising project. She wrote letters and made calls - and wrote more letters and made more calls. "I had lots and lots of help," Bolton smiled. "This was my flame but other people took the torch."

Chuck Sulkala, NABC executive director, is Bolton's "fund-raising mentor." Sulkala told her, "Don't worry about the dollars. Worry about the nickels and dimes and the dollars will come." And they did. However, in February 2005, collected funds were short about $8,000.

"Chuck sent out a mass e-mail and it created an e-mail snowstorm for a week! I could not believe what I saw. All these people poured their hearts out," she continued. By the end of that week, all the necessary money was collected and a reserve started for World Skills 2007!" said Bolton. In less than a year, Bolton and NABC raised $50,000 to send two students to represent the United States at the competition. Donations ranged from $25 to the maximum allowable $3,000.

Big shoes to fill

The Bolton's two children are following in the large footsteps of their parents. Rodney Bolton Jr. is a Senior Airman in the United States Air Force. "He has three stripes on that shoulder of his," glowed Mom Teresa. Currently Airman Bolton is at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. He has been serving in the security forces, guarding military bases in Ubekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Amanda Bolton is graduating from Winters Mill High School this year. Dad's students are refinishing her 1999 Pontiac Firebird and customizing the flames for her "ride." Amanda is already taking college courses, leaning towards the medical profession. Or maybe she'll end up painting cars! You never know.

And the competitors are...

Two young men achieved the highest honors and earned their way as the U.S. representatives to the World Skills Competition in Helsinki.

Nickolaus Ranker from Lakewood, Colorado, is the collision technician competitor. Ranker has always been interested in repairing cars. At 13, he started by helping restore a Mustang for his school fund-raiser. He worked for three summers, restored three Mustangs and gained a wealth of hands-on experience. Ranker worked the collision repair program in high school, subsequently becoming involved with Warren Tech - a vocational program affiliated with his high school.

From his first hands-on experience through his high school auto collision program and affiliation with Warren Tech, becoming a competitor in the World Skills program has brought Ranker to the pinnacle of success. After winning the District and State SkillsUSA contest two years in a row, he won the National SkillsUSA high school competition in 2003. His high ranking in the 2004 National SkillsUSA is sending him to Helsinki. Currently, Ranker is working as a body helper at McDonald Automotive Group Collision Center in Englewood, Colorado. Under the mentorship of body technician and Warren Tech advisory board member Pat Griffith, Ranker will soon move up into a journeyman's position.

Bodie Smith, Spanish Fork, Utah, grew up working on cars with his dad. His older brother became a collision repair technician and taught Smith more about the trade. Thus it was a natural chain of events that put Smith in the collision repair classes at Spanish Fork High School.

As a collision repair student, he first participated in the SkillsUSA competition, placing second in the Utah State Competition two years in a row. After high school graduation, Smith pursued his Associates Degree in collision repair at Utah Valley State College in Provo. As a college student, Smith continued in SkillsUSA competition, placing first in Utah and moving into the national SkillsUSA championship, where he earned the right to represent the United States as the refinish (car painting is the international term) representative in Helsinki. Smith has been working since college at Cascades Collision Repair in Provo.

Preparing for competition

The preparation for these competitors is serious. And the spirit of industry involvement behind these two young men and this national endeavor is awe inspiring. The international processes for competition are not specifically chosen to accommodate our training programs.

To prepare Smith to spray water-borne paint, Bill Pittinger, Spies Hecker, is bringing him to Detroit to train. SADA is donating the specialized spray equipment.


World Skills has chosen the AutoRobot B20 electronic equipment to test Ranker's skills. Since the electronic version of this equipment is not even available in the U.S. at this time, the president of AutoRobot obtained approval from World Skills to allow use of the manual B20 version.

The seriousness of the competition becomes more evident with the information that the Japanese team will be training at the AutoRobot factory on the B20 and the Volvo S60 - the equipment and car being used for the competition - for two weeks prior to the Helsinki competition. AutoRobots' Scott Kinnear will be training Ranker in Prescott, Arizona. I-CAR's Tom McGee personally bought the plane ticket for Ranker to get him to Arizona for training.

SnapOn is donating all the tools that these competitors will need to use.

The coaches

Both competitors will have technical experts as coaches traveling with them. Accompanying Ranker will be collision repair technical expert Ray Swedeen, who has retired from teaching collision repair for 27 years at the Dakota County Technical College in Rosemont, Minnesota, south of Minneapolis. Currently, Swedeen works for I-CAR - doing site inspections and training for I-CAR welding classes. This will be Swedeen's third WorldSkills competition.

The Refinishing technical expert coaching Smith will be Rodney Bolton, Auto Refinishing instructor and transportation department chairman of the Center of Applied Technology in Sevren, Maryland Five area high schools feed into the programs at the Center, where Bolton has been teaching for 15 years. Teresa Bolton, Mrs. Rodney Bolton, loves to watch her husband teach. "I just sit there in awe. He is an incredible instructor," she said with honest admiration. This will be Rodney Bolton's third World Skills competition.

About SkillsUSA

SkillsUSA, formerly known as the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA), is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working to ensure America has a skilled workforce. The mission of SkillsUSA is to apply specific methods of instruction for preparing America's high performance workers in public career and technical programs. In addition, SkillsUSA provides quality education experiences in leadership, teamwork, citizenship and character development, while reinforcing self-confidence, work attitudes and communications skills. SkillsUSA has 13,000 school chapters in 54 U.S. state and territories. Approximately 264,000 students and instructors participate annually in the SkillsUSA program.

Teresa Bolton, as chairperson of Maryland SkillsUSA, is passionate about the program, the students and the end result. "I hear technician shortage, technician shortage wherever I go. Our future is these young men and women. I want kids that are driven and are perfectionists - those are the people I want to touch," she stated with quiet strength.

"SkillsUSA creates excitement and motivates the students to excel. It motivates them to start to like this industry," Bolton continued. "If the collision industry doesn't nurture our future, we won't have one."

Dreams come true

Collision repair has been a time-honored art of craftsmanship. The technological advancements in today's automobiles demand a higher level of skills and expertise than ever before. Teresa and Rodney Bolton are a living testimonial to the future of the collision repair industry and, in a broader sense, the future of our country. Without the unflagging inspiration from people like the Boltons, what type of future would future autobody technicians face?

The U.S.A.'s involvement in the WorldSkills Competition in 2005 would not have happened without Teresa Bolton. Sulkala summed it up: "I am so thrilled for her that this dream and belief of hers has now become real. From conception to implementation, she handled every facet of this program. Her dogged determination has made it look easy, to the point where others may now take it from here to be repeated over and over again in the future. I am very proud of her visions and her accomplishment. She is an inspiration to us all of what can be done by working together and believing in your dreams."

Janet Chaney has served in many facets of the collision repair industry. She is now looking after the best interests of her clients from Desert Hills, Arizona. E-mail her at janet_chaney@earthlink.net.