This story written by Susan Pohorski originally appeared in the 2017 Madison College Annual Report.
When Tom Wozniak entered the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wis., for his opening address at the Wisconsin SkillsUSA Leadership Conference, all eyes and ears were on him. Wozniak roared in from the back of the auditorium riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle onto the stage.
“I wanted them to think of all the skills that go into building and marketing that motorcycle,” he said. “From production to sales, to service, to welding fabrication and painting, all these skills are represented in SkillsUSA.”
When they win, he wins Wozniak serves as team coordinator for Madison College and postsecondary state director for the organization that provides educational programs, events and competitions to support career and technical education.
SkillsUSA involves 30 contests ranging from Automated Manufacturing Technology to Technical Drafting. Some are individual events, others require teams. Contestants complete tasks to demonstrate their skills and industry representatives judge them.
A diesel technology instructor, Wozniak loves to see students succeed. He calls the work he does with SkillsUSA “the most rewarding thing I do besides raising my own children.”
Making it personal “Tom takes all the students under his wing,” said Jeff Molzahn, SkillsUSA advisor. “During the competition, he is out on the floor checking on all of them. He cares about every individual.”
Wozniak encouraged Madison College student Tim Myers to become a SkillsUSA state officer.
“Tom is a dedicated leader and mentor for SkillsUSA. I will always draw from his guidance and passion even after my time on campus,” said Myers, who earned first place in Additive Manufacturing at the state level.
More precious than metal Many students gain national recognition during the contests and return home with job offers. Competitors learn their strengths and weaknesses and where they need to improve.
“I can see how SkillsUSA helps students and impacts their lives,” Wozniak said. “That’s my reward.”
Even when they don’t receive medals, Wozniak expresses pride in the students’ efforts. He praises their drive to put forth their best effort. SkillsUSA competitors have reached a high level of skills they will use the rest of their lives.