Northeast Tech Kansas student returns home from as SkillsUSA National Champion.

Thousands of students from across the nation participated in the 2019 SkillsUSA Competitions held in Louisville, Kentucky, but only a select few return as champions.

One of those champions hails from Kansas, Okla., and when Joseph Friesen heard his name called from the stage, he was flooded with relief.

“My first thoughts were really more like reactions,” said Friesen. “I felt relieved that my wait to find out how I did was over, and I felt very blessed to get first place.”

The SkillsUSA Competitions begin in early spring and last throughout the summer.

The competitions feature regional, state and national rounds, and at each level the participants must win first in order to advance.

Most students are able to practice and prepare for their contests as part of their training at Northeast Tech, but those who advance to nationals put in extra hours and effort after school has let out for the summer.

“I spent almost every other day at school, bending pipe and building projects,” Friesen said. “The days I wasn’t at school I tried to spend studying material relative to my contest.”

Friesen – who is in the electrical program at Northeast Tech – competed in the Industrial Motor Controls Category.

It is a competition related to the electrical equipment used to control an assembly line in an industrial or manufacturing facility.

Each contestant is tested for their knowledge about SkillsUSA, the National Electric Code and must complete significant amounts of math.

They are challenged to bend conduit to specific measurements, troubleshoot defective equipment, design a wiring diagram to control an industrial process, interview for a job and build an electrical wiring project to specifications.

And each task is timed.

Frisen's instructor at Northeast Tech also happens to be his father, Wade Friesen.

The elder Friesen has helped multiple students advance to this highest round of competition.

“Joe came to the lab with me about 11 days (75 - 80 hours) and we worked together to practice and improve the skills that he might need in the contest. He spent more time at home studying, drawing wiring diagrams and practicing bending conduit,” Wade said. “While I drove to Louisville, he studied and then we reviewed and practiced skills in the evenings before the contest.”

The one thing students can’t prepare themselves for is the competition environment – a 300,000 square foot arena that simultaneously houses thousands of SkillsUSA competitions.

“It was crazy,” Joe said, “Your contest is surrounded by a three-mile-long sea of other contests. Right through the middle of that sea are vendors, contest sponsors and employers. The available opportunity to succeed is huge, and it’s right within walking distance. It kind of blows you away.”

Once his competition was over, the waiting game began.

The results are not announced until the awards ceremony, which is the final evening of the week-long event.

For Friesen, hearing his name called as the winner sparked relief.

For Wade, it was a proud moment for many reasons.

“Joe invested a lot of personal time preparing for the contest, and he gave up some opportunities to do other summer activities so he could focus on practicing,” Wade said. “I am glad that his investment in time and effort paid off for him.”

Joe’s first place finish earned him much more than bragging rights, and he returned from the competition with a generous selection of electrical tools that will help him start his career.

The prizes were donated and collected by the Independent Electrical Contractors (IEC), from DeWalt, Klein, Ideal, Southwire, Milwaukee, ATP publishers, Magna, Calculated Industries and BucketBoss.

But according to Joe, the experience he gained from the competition is equally valuable.

“The amount of preparing you can do for anything is limited, and when it comes down to it, you do your best with what you’ve given yourself,” Friesen said.

In August Friesen plans to attend OSU-IT in Okmulgee and earn a degree in Instrumentation Engineering Technology (IET).

He’s aiming for an internship in the IET field that will lead to a steady job.

Back in Kansas, Wade will return to his classroom at Northeast Tech, ready to prepare the next class of students for successful electrical careers.

“This year we were able to add updated Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) and Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) trainers in the lab with classroom and online lessons that include troubleshooting. Our students are also able to experience a virtual factory with several simple to complex scenarios that challenge their programming, problem solving and logic skills,” said Wade.

For more information on any of the classes or training programs available, visit Northeast Tech’s website at or call (918) 825-7040.