Several Rowan-Cabarrus students take first & second place in national competition

SALISBURY, N.C.— Not just one, but two Rowan-Cabarrus Community College students became the top air conditioning, heating and refrigeration students in the country at the 53rd annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers, and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce.  The organization’s mission is to help its members become world-class workers, leaders and responsible American citizens.

William Bullard, a student in the College’s air conditioning, heating and refrigeration program, competed for the first time this year, locally, regionally, and nationally. Bullard became the first Rowan-Cabarrus national champion in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration competition, bringing home the gold with a first place win.William Almon and William Bullard

William Almon, a student in the same program, competed in the major appliance and refrigeration technology competition. Almon also achieved gold and the title of national champion with a first place finish.

“We are so proud of our first place winners! What an accomplishment to train in your field and then compete, ranking number one across the entire country,” said Dr. Carol S. Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus.

The SkillsUSA Championships are competitive events showcasing the best career and technical education students in the nation. Contests begin locally and continue through the state and national levels. This is a multi-million-dollar event that occupies a space equivalent to 16 football fields. Nearly 1,500 judges and contest organizers from labor and management make the national event possible. More than 6,000 outstanding career and technical education students, all state contest winners, compete in 100 different hands-on trade, technical and leadership fields.

“College is about more than just the classes. At Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, students are encouraged to get involved in activities and organizations beyond the classroom, like SkillsUSA, that take their education to the next level,” said Spalding. “Rowan-Cabarrus is so proud of our student champions and the way they represented the College.”

The week in Louisville involved contest preparations, practices, safety seminars, tests, interviews, and training which all led up to the contest event’s opening and closing ceremonies.

Students worked against the clock and each other, proving their expertise in occupations such as electronics, computer-aided drafting, HVACR, precision machining, medical assisting and culinary arts. Contests were run with the help of industry, trade associations and labor organizations, and test competencies are set by the industry. Leadership contestants demonstrated skills including extemporaneous speaking and conducting meetings by parliamentary procedure.

“SkillsUSA is a very worthwhile organization for our students to be involved with, and we are proud that our student club and the College has associated themselves with SkillsUSA,” said Joe Christie, construction technologies group chair for AHR, CMT, and ELC programs.

The College had three other competitors at the national competition:

  • Zachary Donahue, from the air conditioning, heating and refrigeration program, competed in Sheet Metal. Donahue took second place (silver) in the nation. He missed first place by 0.26 percentage points in that contest.
  • Wilbert Torrence, one of North Carolina’s SkillsUSA Student Post-Secondary Committee Leaders, from the automotive program, was a last-minute replacement for North Carolina’s State winner in extemporaneous speaking, who was unable to attend. Even though he was not expecting to compete, he did a remarkable job as a stand-in contestant and finished in tenth place in a very competitive event.
  • Jacob Rife, from the automotive program, competed in marine service technology, placing twelfth in the nation.

“It was a very rewarding time when the awards ceremony finally arrived on Friday night. The awards are called in no particular order, so we all waited with great anticipation of our students’ contests to be called,” said Crockett. “Our students performed extremely well.”

SkillsUSA helps prepare America’s high-performance workers in public career and technical programs, and provides quality education experiences for students in leadership, teamwork, citizenship and character development.

The philosophy of the SkillsUSA championships is to reward students for excellence, to involve industry in directly evaluating student performance and to keep training relevant to employers’ needs.

If you have questions about participating in SkillsUSA, please contact Carl Smith at

For more information about Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, please visit or call 704-216-RCCC (7222).