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Highway Tests Talent at PA SkillsUSA

Tom met with students after the competition to go over the correct diagnosis and how they would have found it

On April 11, 2019, Highway staff volunteered as judges in the 2019 SkillsUSA Pennsylvania State Diesel Technology Competition at the Lebanon Valley Exposition Center & Fairgrounds in Lebanon, PA, and the Heavy Equipment (Operators) Competition at the Volvo CE Customer Center in Shippensburg, PA.

Diesel Technology Competition

HR, Marketing, & Communications Manager Jennifer Nauss and Senior Technical Advisor Tom Mader judged the State Diesel Technology Competition in Lebanon. The Diesel Competition featured 10 20-minute stations that included a written exam. Tom judged the electrical station, and Jennifer judged the resume and interview portion of the competition.

The 10 competitors, who won local and/or district/regional competitions for the right to attend the state-level competition, represented nine career and technology high school programs throughout PA. The winner will be eligible to attend the national SkillsUSA competition in summer 2019.

“This is my fourth year volunteering as a judge, and every year, I am impressed with the commitment these students have made to diesel technology careers ranging from heavy trucks to ag to heavy construction equipment," said Jennifer. "These students are already living and breathing their careers and have made an investment in their futures while the average high school student is contemplating a post-college career that is years away."

Photo Captions:

1: The competitors gather with Chris Weaver, competition chair, to kick-off the day’s events

2: Tom Mader standing with the Volvo CE ECR58D, which he had bugged with an electrical failure, the students had to diagnose

3: The Diesel Technology competitors

4-5 & 9: Tom met with students after the competition to go over the correct diagnosis and how they would have found it

6-7: Tom with one of the competitors

Operators Competition

Operator competitors gathered by the "Flag Loader" at the Volvo CE Customer Center in Shippensburg, PA

Product Support Representative Duff DeFalco, Harrisburg, Territory Sales Manager Joel Taylor, Brownstown, and Territory Sales Representative Drew Dugan, Brownstown, helped judge and/or oversee the Operators Competition in Shippensburg, PA.

The Operators Competition featured three Volvo CE machines:

  • Wheel Loaders, judged by Duff

  • Articulated Haul Trucks, judged by Drew

  • Excavators, supervised by Joel

Product Support Representative Duff DeFalco (left) and Fort Indiantown Gap Trainer Joe (right) judging the wheel loader portion of the Operators Competition

In the wheel loader portion, the 11 contestants had 15 minutes to scoop four loads, position the wheel loader in front of the dump truck, dump the loads, park the machine, and secure it. "It went well," said Duff. "A common mistake and immediate disqualifier in the competition is forgetting to put your seatbelt on, but no one was disqualified. One of them even had a perfect score."

The articulated hauler portion included a pre-operational walkaround followed by a driving course. "Some of them had experience with the artic trucks, while others were pretty new to this," said Drew. "They all caught on quickly."

"This was an excellent opportunity for Volvo CE and Highway, because a lot of the SkillsUSA competitors work with excavating contractors," said Drew. "Being able to hop in a Volvo allows them to get a feel for the machines' quality and recommend them to the contractors based on their experience at SkillsUSA."

At the excavator station, students were given the opportunity to operate the machines and receive training from Joel.

"A lot of them had never run an excavator of that size before, so it was beneficial for them to experience a bigger world outside their classrooms," said Joel. "I went over the controls with them and taught them how the machines operate. Volvo CE equipped the excavators with Dig Assist, so I got them acquainted with the Dig Assist system. SkillsUSA is a major milestone in spotlighting the industry-wide operator shortage. Volvo really stepped up to the plate to address the issue by hosting this event and donating time, food, people, rewards, prizes, and machines, especially considering the schools do not typically have the resources to buy and maintain this range of equipment for their students."

See the student operators in action:

While the Operators Competition was previously held at Fort Indiantown Gap in Annville, PA, the competition moved to Volvo CE's Customer Center in Shippensburg, PA, this year.

"Since Volvo CE always sponsors the event, I casually suggested to [Volvo CE Product Marketing & Communications Director] Ian Harvey that they have it at the Customer Center," said Duff. "The kids had a good time. Everyone enjoyed the experience. It was a dynamic day: Volvo CE rolled out the red carpet for us, there was plenty of tasty food, and the kids were enthusiastic to test out the new equipment."

Photo Captions:

1-2 : Students, judges, and Volvo CE representatives gather in the Customer Center conference room before the competition

3-4: Operator competitors gather by the "Flag Loader" at the Volvo CE Customer Center

5-8: Students operate a Volvo CE EC35D in the competition's excavator portion

9: Students operate a Volvo CE A30G in the competition's articulated hauler portion

10-11: Students operate a Volvo CE L90H in the competition's wheel loader portion

12: Students operate a Bobcat S590 skid steer loader in the competition

13: Judges review competitors' performance and provide feedback

About SkillsUSA

The Diesel Equipment and Operators Competitions were among the 98 skills-and leadership-based competitions held in eight locations throughout Central PA. Competitions ranged from 3-D Visualization and Animation to Welding. The first place Diesel Technology and Heavy Equipment winners were scheduled to receive:

Diesel Technology:

  • $20,400 scholarship to Automotive Training Center

  • Ohio Technical College scholarship

  • $2,500 Pennsylvania College of Technology scholarship (renewable)

  • University of Northwestern Ohio scholarship

Heavy Equipment:

  • $2,500 Pennsylvania College of Technology scholarship (renewable)

Highway provided a tote bag filled with Highway-branded swag and a Volvo CE-donated lunch tote, to each Diesel Technology competitor.

“It isn’t a question of if Highway should support SkillsUSA, but how can we help SkillsUSA? This is a potential pipeline of talent for us on the Diesel Technology side and for our customers on the operators' side," said Jennifer. "Even if we don’t get talent through it, the competition promotes the need for students to consider and enter skills-based career fields, which benefits all of us.”

SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers, and industries working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. SkillsUSA helps each student excel by providing educational programs, events, and competitions that support career and technical education in the nation’s classrooms.

For more information about SkillsUSA go to or

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