[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]
One year from now, some of the world’s brightest and most highly trained young adults will gather in Shanghai for the 46th WorldSkills technician event. The contestants will go head-to-head seeking gold, silver and bronze medals.
The competition, rescheduled because of the pandemic, is set for Oct. 12-17, 2022. And again, the U.S. is sending a representative to compete in the heavy-equipment category.
“We are celebrating the skills of these great young people,” Madison Area Technical College heavy equipment instructor and WorldSkills mentor Tom Wozniak told Transport Topics. “Last year, because of COVID, we had to do our national event virtually, and it was tough to work on a truck virtually.”
Gabe Krebs, 20, of Lonsdale, Minn., is a 2019 graduate of the Heavy Duty Truck Technology program at Dakota County Technical College in Minnesota. He is a transmission specialist at Interstate Power Systems, a Bloomington, Minn.-based diesel engine repair service company. Krebs has been interested in the trucking and heavy equipment industry for several years.
“I started my career path when I was in high school,” he said. “I was looking for different options instead of going to a full, four-year college. I knew that wasn’t the fit for me. I left my junior year in high school and enrolled at Dakota Tech, and I graduated with my associate degree, and at the same time I got my high school diploma.”
Wozniak and Krebs are attempting to follow the success at WorldSkills that the U.S. team had in August 2019 when Michigan’s Ryan Meppelink won a bronze medal in Kazan, Russia, in the heavy vehicle competition.
Krebs has been competing at the local and national SkillsUSA events, and he quickly moved up the ranks before being selected to represent the U.S. on the international level.
“I spoke with my high school dean in my junior year,” he said. “During my first semester at trade school, I got offered a chance to compete in a state SkillsUSA competition in White Bear Lake, Minn., and I did OK; I took first place at the state level. Then I went to a national competition in Louisville [Ky.] in 2018 and finished 23rd.
“I came back the following year in 2019, I won the state competition, and I knew a lot more about what to expect. Then I won the silver medal at the nationals that year for my college and my state.”
Krebs’ dedication and talent caught the attention of Wozniak and other SkillsUSA leaders who were looking for another candidate for Shanghai.
“I was very impressed with Gabe and all of the contestants we looked at,” Wozniak said. “Gabe stood out. We went through the selection process, and the team said Gabe was ready. Gabe is clearly driven.”
Because of COVID-19, Krebs and Wozniak have not met face-to-face, and much of the training and practice leading up to Shanghai will be done virtually. But Wozniak believes they have an advantage as Meppelink will assist Krebs, especially when preparing for the three-day competition. That’s when contestants are presented with a series of problems with a piece of heavy equipment and given a set number of hours to diagnosis the situation and make repairs.
“When Ryan and I did this in 2019 with WorldSkills, we didn’t know what to expect,” Wozniak said. “Ryan really wants to help Gabe. A few weeks ago, they connected for more than an hour and had a huge chat. Ryan said he wants to be a part of this and help Gabe to succeed, even better than he did.”
“It’s a great honor to have Ryan offering to help,” Krebs said. “Those are some big shoes to fill.”
Krebs inspects a tire. (Dakota County Technical College)
Wozniak said with the U.S. sending a candidate to WorldSkills in consecutive competitions for the first time it shows that the country can compete at the highest level and bring talented young people into an industry that can provide long, prosperous careers.
“We need to promote our industry,” Wozniak said. “Our industry is very technical; it is so advanced, with engines, emissions, people are getting more specialized training, and you can make a very good living in this industry. We need to be out there promoting that, and we need to reach out to high school students and the parents and get them interested.”
For his part, Krebs said he is driven and looks forward to working full time at Interstate Power Systems while preparing for Shanghai. He said this fits a pattern in his life since an early age, when he decided on a goal.
“I like doing things that other people don’t like doing, and that means more job security for me,” he said. “If I want it done, I want to do it because I know it will be done right.”
Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing below or go here for more info: