July 11, 2013 12:00AM
In his more than 40 years of teaching in the field of technology, Ron Downing has seen first-hand the impact the SkillsUSA organization can have on a student.
“SkillsUSA opens a lot of doors for students who most likely didn’t previously know about their programs,” said Downing, associate professor in Pittsburg State University’s Automotive Technology Department. “It offers opportunities to develop leadership skills and technical skills. It really does prepare students to serve in essential leadership positions.”
Downing is a strong advocate for SkillsUSA. Now, he is also a lifetime member.
During a special ceremony in late June, Downing received SkillsUSA’s highest honor, the National Honorary Life Membership. The honor goes to those technology professionals who have given “many years of dedicated service to the organization and the students” it serves.
SkillsUSA is a national nonprofit organization serving teachers and high school and college students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations, including health occupations. It provides a variety of competitions and challenges that help students hone their skills.
Downing’s National Honorary Lifetime Membership comes just one year after he received an honorary lifetime membership into the Kansas SkillsUSA organization.
The award recognizes Downing for nearly four decades of service to the organization, during which his students have won numerous national awards and held top leadership posts and Downing has served as the national automotive service technology expert for World Skills.
“To be recognized by your peers feels good,” Downing said. “I’m honored to be in the company of some very talented and deserving individuals. There are many of us who have donated a lot of time and effort to the organization, and it’s a true thrill to be recognized for that effort.”
Downing taught at Lamar (Mo.) Area Technical School for 24 years before joining the PSU Automotive Technology faculty in 1996. At Lamar, he advised the local SkillsUSA chapter. Downing’s students won four gold, three silver and one bronze medal in the national automotive service technology competition between 1983 and 1996.
At PSU, Downing helped restart the campus SkillsUSA chapter. From 1997 through 2002, PSU automotive students won three gold and three silver national medals in the college division. In 2002, PSU stepped away from the competition to take over management of the state automotive contest, with Downing as chairman, and many of the PSU automotive faculty being involved, as well. In 2011, the chairman’s position was turned back over to industry so PSU students would have the chance to compete again.
In 2001, Downing was selected as the World Skills expert for automotive technology. In four world skills competitions, the U.S. won three silver medals and one, fifth-place finish.