Cruz-Baez qualifies for Automotive Service Technology nationals

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On April 13, senior Juan Cruz-Baez placed first in the SkillsUSA Automotive Service Technology competition at Hennepin Technical College in Brooklyn Park, which qualified him for the national competition June 24-28 in Louisville, Ky.

Cruz-Baez was the only Faribault entrant in the competition, which featured about 25 total participants between the high school and college divisions.

“(Automotive teacher Kevin) Paukert encouraged me and said it would be nice to go and compete. It was mostly him that led me to do this and prepared me for this. There were days I stayed after school so we could go over things again,” Cruz-Baez said. “It definitely felt good to try my hardest and come out in first…. Hopefully I can go down to Kentucky and win something there, as well.”

The state competition, which was part of the annual Minnesota Leadership and Skills Championship Conference, required students to showcase a variety of skills. In addition to a written test and a mock job interview, students were tested in six hands-on stations where they addressed different automotive issues: engine performance, steering, suspension and brakes, electronic service information, precision measurement, charging system and transmission.

Cruz-Baez said he felt prepared because of everything he had learned in his classes at FHS. He has taken every automotive class available.

“The classes at the school are really good classes,” he said. “If automotive or fixing stuff is something you like to do, the classes will definitely help a lot. Even if you already know a lot, the classes show you more.”

As a senior, Cruz-Baez is now able to spend the last 90 minutes of his school day getting class credit through his internship at Harry Brown’s Family Auto in Faribault.

“Usually I just get to observe and help the technicians there with oil changes and tire changes,” he said. “When it slows down, I get to spend a lot of time watching the technicians while they’re fixing things and diagnosing things.”

Cruz-Baez is interested in pursuing a career in the automotive field and is considering enrolling in the two-year program at Dakota County Technical College. He said the internship has provided him with valuable experience.

“It’s something that will help me in the future,” he said. “If it’s something I continue to pursue, it has definitely helped me learn a lot.”
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