Lessons learned resonate long after the tractor restoration competition
This year’s Delo Tractor Restoration Competition is coming to a close. Right now, the finalists are busily preparing their presentations. The judges will have their work cut out for them.
The projects have reached such a professional level that picking winners from a group of worthy contenders, all of whom have shown the same dedication and commitment, is extremely difficult.
But the end result is more than a collection of beautifully restored tractors. And it’s not just the winners who go home with something valuable. The competition puts many participants on a path to rewarding careers in which they can apply the lessons learned and skills acquired through their restoration projects – mechanical skills as well as experience in project management, time management, budgeting, communication and team leadership.
This year, we caught up with a number of prior participants and asked how the competition had influenced their careers. The response was overwhelmingly positive. “The biggest thing that has stuck with me from the competition is the importance of safety, which is the number one lesson over everything else,” says one participant, who now works as a heavy equipment mechanic for a major Midwestern construction company. He further credits the competition with giving him the interviewing skills to land a job in his profession. And he continues to buy and sell restored tractors at auctions. “I really learned how much I like to restore old machinery and keep the past alive.”
Another competition veteran works as a service technician with an ag implement dealership in Wisconsin. “The TRC gave me a sturdy foundation to build on to reach the goals I have met and be able to set future goals for myself,” he says. “It made it possible for me to network with hundreds of people across the Midwest.”
Equipment sales is another career path that opens up for those who have developed communication and presentation skills. “Meeting new people in my career is much easier, having the experience of the contest,” says a Territory Manager for construction equipment sales and rentals.
For many, the rewards are not just professional, but also personal. “I have made lifelong friendships through the trials and successes of our restoration,” says one past contestant, now working in production with one of the country’s top RV manufacturers. “And I have a tractor that I am proud to show throughout our community.” In addition to advancing their careers, the competition has helped many participants forge strong bonds within their communities.
One is helping put on tractor rides and organizing tractor pull contests to benefit local charities. Another has worked for 25 years as an FFA and Skills USA advisor, overseeing restoration projects and creating internship opportunities for students.
What kind of advice do these experienced tractor restorers have for the next group of high school students considering the challenge? “Go all in, learn and complete every aspect of the restoration. Tell people about what you’re doing. I had no idea I could put my little town on the map just by fixing an old tractor.”