Joliet Junior College automotive student Tom Hahn of Homer Glen earned national recognition after winning second place and receiving a silver medal at the national SkillsUSA Automotive Service Competition in Kansas City, Missouri earlier this summer.
For the past six years, a JJC student has always placed first in the Illinois SkillsUSA competition, but this is the first time in 25 years that a JJC student has medaled in the national round.
Hahn, who is only a freshman, was no stranger to the national competition, either – he competed there as a senior from Carl Sandburg High School last year, and placed 18th. All high schools, colleges, and universities in the United States are invited to participate in Skills USA competitions.
This year, Hahn’s second place win came after he competed against 43 other students from across the country.
“I was very excited – it was definitely a huge accomplishment,” Hahn said. “Before the competition, I was at JJC practicing from 10 to 6 almost every day. There are a lot of people who go into the competition overly confident, so they don’t practice that much. I think you get what you put into it.”
In addition to practicing for the competition this summer, Hahn also took a JJC automotive class, and worked at Sears Auto Center at the Louis Joliet Mall.
Automotive instructor Jim Coleman said the Skills USA competition is tough and requires a lot of knowledge on multiple subjects. Each competitor went through 13 rigorous test stations where they had to figure out what was wrong with a vehicle and repair it in a certain amount of time. The competition, which also included a written portion, lasted eight hours.
“This is a huge achievement for Tom, and we are very proud of him. Tom dedicates long hours of study and practice to improve his skills, and he is probably the most driven student I have ever worked with. I believe he can accomplish anything he puts his mind to,” Coleman said. “I think Tom’s achievement is just another way to demonstrate what a student going to JJC can accomplish.”
In August 2011, the JJC automotive program underwent renovations and produced a large expansion that includes a new commercial shop area with 16 service bays, four new classrooms, a dedicated customer service area, new parts and equipment storage rooms.
The automotive expansion was one of seven major construction projects under JJC’s 2008-2013 master plan.
“JJC has state-of-the-art equipment, and the instructors have been there for me the entire time. They’re great,” Hahn said. “They helped me prepare for the hardest competition I’ve ever had to do. JJC is the best place in Illinois to prepare for an automotive career in two years.”
“Our ability to produce highly educated and skilled students that are successful year after year is the measure of a good program,” Coleman added.
Because Hahn won the competition, the JJC automotive service program received 2013 Cadillac XTS4 as a donation for future students to practice with during class. Hahn received a laptop from Toyota, as well as a Toyota Tech Stream Scan Tool.
Hahn plans to compete in the Illinois Skills USA competition again next April, with hopes of returning to the national competition in 2015.
After JJC, he plans to transfer to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. He wants to work with hybrids as an automotive engineer in alternative fuels.
For more information about JJC’s automotive service technology program, visit http://www.jjc.edu/academics/divisions/career-technical/technical/automotive-service-tech/Pages/default.aspx.