Rayce Edmondson, a junior at Valley High School and Inspire Academy, will be the only high schooler representing the State of Alabama in automotive technology at the national SkillsUSA competition in Atlanta, according to his automotive service technology instructor at Inspire Academy, James Winkles, and Chambers County Commissioner David Eastridge.
The event will be held at the Georgia World Congress Center from June 20 to June 25. The competition will be in technical career subjects such as masonry, welding, cosmetology, janitorial services and others.
Winkles said that his students had the opportunity to enter SkillsUSA competitions by joining the organization in his class.
“He [Edmondson] decided he wanted to prepare and train, and we had a local competition, and then we went on from there to district and then state,” Winkles said.
Edmondson won second place at the local level, second place at the district level and first place at the state level for automotive service technology. He won several scholarships totaling $29,500 at the state competition, which took place from April 25 to April 27 in Birmingham, Alabama, Eastridge said.
The national competition will be large. Eastridge said at the Chambers County Commission meeting on Monday that there will be approximately 6,500 contestants, 106 events in different subjects and over 2,000 total judges.
“It is an honor to think that he’s the only one in the state that will be representing Alabama,” Eastridge said.
The Chambers County Commission approved Monday for $2,000 to be given to the Chambers County School District to offset the travel expenses for the competition.
Having students go to nationals is nothing new for Winkles.
“I actually started back in 1980,” he said. “Back then, it was called VICA [Vocational and Industrial Club of America], and I actually competed. I actually taught at Troup High School. I taught at Troup High School for 30 years, and I retired from there and started over here. This is probably my 30th time going to nationals.”
Winkles said that in 2019, he had two students attend the national SkillsUSA competition, which was held in Louisville, Kentucky.
“Then, in the 2020 school year, we were online again to hopefully go to nationals because I had that returning student with me, but then COVID hit,” he said.
Edmondson said it feels exciting and “kind of nerve-wracking” to be going to nationals.
“I know that I’m the best in the state currently, but that doesn’t really tell me much about the rest of the country, so I don’t really know what to expect or how I need to prepare myself,” he said.
Edmondson could potentially make upwards of $100,000 a year working in the CNC field (Computer Numerical Control Programming).
“You use a program and set up what you want done, and a machine does it for you,” he said.
Edmondson has his sights set upon the CNC program at Universal Technical Institute.
“I’m also going to get certified as far as I can in automotive things, so that I can fall back or even run my own shop at the same time,” he said.
Edmondson’s favorite thing about automotive technology is that it’s challenging.
“There’s not been much that’s challenged me, that kept my interest, and this has,” he said. “It’s hard, but it’s fun. [I’m] learning things constantly. We could be training for the same exact thing, and I’ll learn something.”
SkillsUSA, a national nonprofit educational association, describes itself as “a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce.” SkillsUSA serves middle school, high school and college or postsecondary students “preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations.”