A year and a half of training is complete for a Heavy Equipment Maintenance student from Ottawa County. Ryan Meppelink is prepared to travel to Russia to represent the U.S. and Ferris State University in the WorldSkills Kazan 2019 competition, Aug. 22-27.
Meppelink said that he was happy to have the support of his expert coach Tom Wozniak, who is an instructor at Madison Area Technical College. Wozniak’s collaboration with Meppelink was arranged by SkillsUSA, a nonprofit partnership of industry and education founded in 1965 to strengthen the nation’s skilled workforce. Preparation has involved regular trips to Wisconsin to meet with Wozniak and complete projects designed to mimic those in his Heavy Vehicle Technology competition.
“This will be the third time that WorldSkills has offered this competition,” Meppelink said. “In 2015, there was a demonstration in Brazil. The first official offering was in Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, in 2017. Tom has set up repair scenarios based on what we know was presented in the last competition, and we understand that judges will watch each move, with foci on my precision, accuracy of work and being safe in what I do.”
Meppelink competed in Diesel Equipment Technology as a high school student at the 2016 SkillsUSA National Skills and Leadership Conference. He placed third. In preparation for collegiate competition in SkillsUSA 2018, he was among six persons invited to participate in the WorldSkills team selection process that year and won a head-to-head competition over the other finalist.
The 3M Corporation is the lead sponsor of the U.S. WorldSkills competitors. Meppelink said he was impressed by SkillsUSA Foundation Chair Maureen Tholen’s level of commitment to the USA team. Tholen is sustainability director for 3M’s Industrial Business and Safety and Graphics Business Group.
“The 3M sponsorship is critical to our effort,” Meppelink said. “With 22 competitors, this is the largest USA team ever, and we benefit from great equipment and support, thanks to the corporate commitments. It has allowed me to learn more about heavy equipment than at any other time in my education.”
Following years of working as a repair mechanic for a company near his hometown, Meppelink has completed an internship with Michigan Caterpillar. He said that opportunity gave him the practical experience to prepare for the Olympics-style competition, where the top three participants earn medals.
“Competitors will be asked to make a hands-on effort to complete repairs on a machine, using tools that are provided for the task,” Meppelink said. “If it cannot be fixed, our response involves making a defined assessment of the situation based on measurements we take during our three-hour opportunity. Going into the competition, I do not feel overwhelmed. I am capable of multi-tasking and getting into a flow knowing very well what the judges will be looking for from my efforts.”
Two Ferris professors will also travel to Russia to assist at WorldSkills Kazan 2019. Graphic Media Management Professor Patrick Klarecki is the chief technical expert for Print Media Technology. He will be the competition manager in Russia. CAD Drafting and Tool Design Professor Dan Wanink is the expert supporting Nampa, Idaho native Benjamin Campbell, who will compete in Mechanical Engineering (CAD).
“We went through a selective and exhaustive process to determine the most capable participants, which was an exciting way to get into my first time serving as an expert,” Wanink said. “I began working with Ben, in June of 2018, and find that my work is a mix of mentoring, coaching and advising. I have been able to get him active in a number of opportunities, thanks to the industry support from sponsors like 3M. All these competitors are 22 years old and younger, and to be involved with Team USA has been an amazing experience.”
This 45th biennial WorldSkills Competition will bring together competitors from 63 countries and regions who will compete in 56 skills. The USA team taking part will compete in 20 career and technical education categories.