Auto tech student wins SkillsUSA Missouri title, heads to national stage

Joey Dunlap (center) celebrates after becoming a SkillsUSA Missouri state champion. (Photo by Dan Blurton)

Metropolitan Community College student Joey Dunlap, 19, knew his skills were good. But he was stunned to find out he was the best in the state.

The automotive technology student recently won the Missouri championship for mobile electronics installation in a SkillsUSA competition. Now he will square off against the best students in the country at nationals June 24-28 in Louisville, Kentucky.

“I was very surprised,” Dunlap says. “I expected to be in the top three but I didn’t expect to win.”

Dunlap says when he learned he was a Missouri champ he started yelling and was “super excited.” He calls this “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.”

MCC automotive technology instructor Dan Blurton says various prizes from tool companies will go to national winners. But he says Dunlap, by simply competing, is already ahead of the game in getting his name in front of prospective employers.

Joey Dunlap

“Employers are looking for young people that are so committed to their careers that they want to compete with others to prove how good they are,” Blurton says.

Dunlap is working to earn an associate in applied science degree in automotive technology. He’s taking classes at both MCC-Longview and MCC-Blue River.

He isn’t new to SkillsUSA competitions. Dunlap competed during his senior year at Blue Springs High School. That year, he went to state but not to nationals.

He’s looking forward to the national contest. “I’m a little bit nervous,” he says. “But I’m more excited than anything.”

Dunlap says he knows there are probably a lot of people better than he is. “But not a lot of people have the determination. I’m going in with a lot of confidence.”

He credits SkillsUSA for building up that confidence.

The competitions don’t just put students’ mechanical skills to the test. There are also interview and customer services portions, too.

Dunlap says he used to hate presentations and wasn’t a fan of speaking in front of other people. But he says SkillsUSA changed that. The public speaking parts gave him confidence, although he admits they’re still the hardest part of the SkillsUSA competitions for him.

What he’s learning in class is helping his confidence, too. One instructor gave him advice for fixing electronics problems.

“Break it down to simple stuff. Don’t overthink it. Take it one step at a time and you can understand the problem,” he says.

Dunlap enjoys working with automotive electronics: “It’s what I want to do.” He’s interested in knowing how all the cool electronic stuff coming out on cars these day works.

Blurton says MCC is benefiting from Dunlap’s success, too, by getting the attention of employers and future students.

“Winning essentially proves that we have a great program that produces outstanding technicians,” he says.

Dunlap is among those continuing a proud tradition of representing MCC in SkillsUSA competitions. Jonathan Robertson won a SkillsUSA national championship in 2016. You can read about his success and the Corvette he won for MCC here.