Special to Iredell Free News
Two local students who attend both Lake Norman High School and the Career Academy and Technical School (CATS) recently competed in an automotive technology competition at NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville.
Kyler Pralle and Michael Brotherton each won a $5,000 grant.
Students from around the region competed for a total of $74,000 in grants using in-demand automotive technology skills and knowledge in two separate competitions, the Top Tech Challenge and the Auto Tech Challenge.
Twenty teams from North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia went head-to-head for the Top Tech Challenge, competing in both hands-on and written tests on vehicle parts, engines, diagnostics and electrical systems using NASCAR Tech’s state-of-the-industry facility and equipment. Each student placing on a top 10 team won a grant toward attending UTI ranging from $10,000 for first place to $1,000 for a fourth through 10th place finish.
Students on the winning team of two, Jonah Longworth and Zachary Blalock of Davie County High School in Mocksville, demonstrated know-how in all competitive areas. They can now advance their skill sets by utilizing their $10,000 UTI grant at one of 13 UTI campuses nationwide.
Ethan Jordan and Caleb Sargent of Hamilton Career and Technology Center in Westminster, S.C., finished second, each walking away with a $7,500 grant, and Lake Norman High students Pralle and Brotherton came in third, winning $5,000 grants.
“It is incredibly valuable for these students to have the opportunity to develop automotive technology skills and learn about programs like ours, where they can hone those skills after high school,” said Jennifer Bergeron, campus president at NASCAR Technical Institute. “Our campuses have been hosting the Top Tech Challenge competition for more than a decade now, and each time we’re impressed by students’ breadth and depth of knowledge. UTI has more than 35 leading manufacturer partners and thousands of local employers who look to us to train the next generation of technicians. This is a great way to encourage and reward students’ interest in the transportation industry, and we’re proud to say 170 students who’ve won these grants have graduated from UTI so far.”
The Auto Tech Challenge is a new addition this year, allowing academic students without a vocational education background to compete individually for grants. William Thompson of Laurens Academy in Laurens, S.C., took top honors in that competition, earning a $7,000 UTI grant. Dejan Djukic of Ledford High School in Thomasville placed second for a $5,000 grant, and John Hern of Page High School in Greensboro came in third, winning a $3,000 grant.
The automotive industry needs highly trained professionals due to growth, net replacements and retirements from the trade. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projections, the transportation industry will have to fill more than 69,000 service technician and mechanic job openings annually on average through 2030.