On Saturday, May 13, industry professionals of the present and future gathered at the Somerset County Vocational/Technical High School for the 39th annual NJ SkillsUSA/VICA Collision Repair and Automotive Service Technology State Finals. Secondary and post-secondary students studying collision and mechanical repair were challenged and evaluated by current professionals based on their skills and written test performance. As in past years, several Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of New Jersey (AASP/NJ) members lent their expertise as industry judges.
“I think it’s very important that [AASP/NJ] is an ongoing part of this competition,” explains Dan Hawtin, AASP/NJ Chapter One president, who judged the collision estimate portion of this year’s competition. “These kids represent the future of our industry. It’s competitions like these that really help prepare for both the challenges and the rewards of life as an auto repairer.” Bobby Kostrewa of Tranz Connection in Toms River and Ted Rainer of Ocean Bay Auto Body in Pt. Pleasant were also judges of the automotive technology and collision repair competitions, respectively.
Michael Kartanowicz of Bergen County Technical High School in Teterboro took home the gold medal in the area of Collision Repair Technology. Kartanowicz, a senior in the auto collision repair program who currently works at Weber’s Auto Body in North Arlington, was also the winner of AASP/NJ’s annual Russ Robson memorial scholarship at NORTHEAST 2006. “Mike is really something special,” says his employer, AASP/NJ board member Rich Weber. “He’s the kind of employee you wish you had 10 of. I’m very proud to see one of my employees winning awards and honors like these at such an early age. His already advanced skills will develop even more as he grows in this industry, and Mike will be a valuable asset to this industry someday soon.”