Collin College’s Joshua Meza Shines at SkillsUSA National Tournament

The collision technology student and prepper/buffer at Gerber Collision and Glass placed in the top 10 in the nation in automotive refinishing.

Joshua Meza is a student at Collin College in Texas.

Joshua Meza, a 19-year-old collision technology student from Collin College in North Texas, showcased his automotive refinishing skills and placed in the top 10 at the SkillsUSA National Leadership & Skills Conference in late June in Atlanta, GA.

Currently pursuing an associate's degree in collision technology, Meza’s journey into this field began with a simple yet profound experience. After receiving his first car, he discovered a deep love for working on vehicles, which sparked an interest in pursuing a career in automotive refinishing.

JoshRaven webRaven Hartkopf, left, professor of collision technology at Collin College, helped prepare Meza for the refinishing competition and cheered him on at the SkillsUSA national tournament in Atlanta, GA.

Meza’s enthusiasm and skills have earned him a place in the industry and recognition at a competitive level. He works as a prepper and buffer for Gerber Collision and Glass in Plano, TX, which allows him to apply his knowledge and skills practically. This hands-on experience has been instrumental in shaping his expertise and preparing him for competitive events.

This year, Meza earned the opportunity to showcase his talents on a grand stage, competing in the automotive refinishing category at the SkillsUSA national tournament. 

SkillsUSA is a respected workforce development organization with nearly 400,000 participants nationwide. Its mission is to empower students to become skilled professionals, career-ready leaders and responsible community members.

This was Meza’s first year competing in the SkillsUSA national tournament. He described the event as an incredible opportunity to showcase his skills and to connect with others in the industry. Despite stiff competition, Meza performed well, finishing in the top 10 in his category. While he didn’t take home a medal, he said the experience was invaluable. He is eagerly awaiting the final results to see his exact placement.

His instructor, Raven Hartkopf, professor of collision technology at Collin College, said Meza’s practice paid off.

“I am proud of Joshua’s work in preparing for the contest," said Hartkopf. "We tried to practice twice a week leading up to the contest and trained on several Saturdays. Joshua is one of those students who fully immerses himself in refinishing, as he currently works in the industry. He always strives to improve his craft, and he takes feedback seriously. I am glad we could go on this trip because I knew we were sending our very best."

Meza said the overall experience was fantastic. He found every aspect rewarding, from the competition to the people he met. The event included a variety of tasks such as ASE tests, prepping panels for blend, color tinting, masking, color identification and feather edging, priming and blocking a plastic bumper. Each task tested different aspects of his skills and knowledge, providing a comprehensive challenge.

Certificate webMeza was one of 6,000 state champions who participated in this year's SkillsUSA Championship.

Meza believes participating in the SkillsUSA national tournament will positively impact his career. He said the exposure and networking opportunities were tremendous, helping him establish his name and face within the industry. He said although small and interconnected, the collision industry offers numerous career paths. His experience at the competition reinforced his desire to continue learning and growing within the field.

Meza also emphasized the importance of humility and continuous learning. The competition showed him there is always more to learn and the industry is tightly knit, with professionals often knowing or hearing about one another. Despite a few hiccups along the way, he enjoyed the camaraderie with his advisors and the overall experience.

In addition to Meza’s achievements, more Collin College students performed exceptionally well at the SkillsUSA national tournament, including in automotive service technology and welding fabrication. The college’s welding fabrication team also secured first place.

Competitions like SkillsUSA not only provide an opportunity for students to showcase their skills and apply them in a competitive environment, but they also build confidence and expose them to new opportunities. These tournaments also recognize the impact of technical schools and affirm the strength of the training curriculum and instructors preparing the next generation of collision professionals.

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