Student Spotlight: Damian Dvorak

Damian Dvorak

PSEO/HDTT student takes third in SkillsUSA statewide competition

Damian Dvorak, 16, is a Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) student enrolled in the Heavy Duty Truck Technology (HDTT) program at Dakota County Technical College. Damian recently competed in the SkillsUSA Minnesota State Championships at the SkillsUSA Minnesota State Leadership and Skills Conference. He took third place in the Diesel Equipment Technology High School competition. The championships took place April 1 through April 25, 2021.

Damian got ready for the SkillsUSA competition by putting in more time at the college. “The most experience I got from DCTC was during SkillsUSA Prep Week,” he said. “I stayed an extra few hours with all four HDTT instructors. They helped me through everything they expected I would encounter in the competition.”

Damian started at DCTC as a PSEO student in 2020. He’s working on earning his Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in HDTT. He worked while going to school as an apprentice at Schmidt Service Co., a truck repair shop in Eagan, Minnesota.

“I do all the PMs and some other random stuff that nobody likes to do,” he said.

Edwin White is one of Damian’s HDTT instructors. Ed considers Damian remarkably mature and knowledgeable for a student of his age.

“It was a real joy to have Damian in my class this last semester,” Ed related. “Many of his classmates sought him out for advice and direction, even though he was the youngest student in my class. He has a strong work ethic and came into the program with good understanding of mechanical application. I am confident that he will go very far in this industry and look forward to seeing what he accomplishes in the future. I couldn’t be prouder to have had the opportunity to instruct Damian in his first semester at DCTC.”

More about SkillsUSA Minnesota…¹

The 2021 SkillsUSA Minnesota State Championships showcased the work of career and technical education (CTE) students throughout the state. Nearly 400 outstanding students competed in 48 different trade, technical and leadership events. The competitions were held in cities and schools across Minnesota. Due to continuing health and safety concerns prompted by the ongoing pandemic, most events were held in either remote, hybrid or a submission-style capacity.

During the state SkillsUSA competition, CTE students worked against the clock and each other, proving their expertise in numerous occupational areas, including:

  • Collision repair
  • Heating and cooling
  • Cosmetology
  • Computer-aided drafting
  • Welding
  • Mechatronics
  • Computer programming
  • Cybersecurity
  • Culinary arts
  • Extemporaneous speaking
  • Advertising design
  • Auto service technology
  • And more…

All contests are developed, facilitated and judged by SkillsUSA with the help of industry, trade associations and labor organizations, testing competencies set by industry. In addition, leadership contestants demonstrated their skills, which included extemporaneous speaking and community service.

Top student winners receive gold, silver and bronze medallions. Many also receive prizes such as tools of their trade and scholarships to further their careers and education. The annual championships event is for middle school, high school and college-level students who are members of SkillsUSA.


DCTC HDTT competitors at 2021 SkillsUSA Minnesota State Championships

Damian Dvorak
Placed third in Diesel Equipment Technology High School competition

Paul Schulz
Second-year HDTT student
Placed fifth in Diesel Equipment Technology Postsecondary competition

Kevin Miller
Second-year HDTT student
Placed Ninth in Diesel Equipment Technology Postsecondary competition

Cody Buck
First-year HDTT student
Placed sixth in Diesel Equipment Technology Postsecondary competition

More about Damian…

Originally from Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, Damian will be graduating from homeschooling in 2022. He grew up in a very large, traditional nuclear family—he has 13 siblings. Now that summer has arrived, he’s working full-time—10 hours a day, 50 hours a week, Monday through Friday. He has also added six mowing accounts he schedules during his spare time on weekends.

In his free time, Damian enjoys building contraptions and vehicles, anything from low-speed work rigs to 60+ m.p.h. gas scooters and three-wheelers. He resides in Inver Grove Heights.

More about the Heavy Duty Truck Technology program…

As a student in the HDTT program at DCTC, you will learn all aspects of heavy-duty truck repair and maintenance. The program focuses on large trucks, typically class 7 and 8.

Areas of instruction include:
  • Electrical and electronic systems
  • Steering/alignment
  • Foundation brakes
  • Air brakes
  • Anti-lock brake systems

You will perform diesel engine troubleshooting as well as overhauls and tune-ups on both mechanical and electronic engines. Clutch, transmission, drive axle repair and overhaul are taught along with welding instruction, preventive maintenance and HVAC.

You will be given the opportunity to obtain a commercial drivers license (CDL) and become a state of Minnesota certified commercial vehicle inspector.

This program is accredited by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF). Programs must undergo extensive evaluation and site visits by NATEF to receive and retain program accreditation.

More about PSEO at DCTC…

DCTC offers programs that allow you to earn college credits for free while you are still in high school. As a qualifying high school student, you will be able to seamlessly transfer the credits you earn to nearly any college or university in Minnesota, as well as many others nationwide.

Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) is a program for motivated high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors to talk classes at a college or university while in high school. In the PSEO program, high school students who meet qualifications will take class on campus at a college or online. These classes will earn them dual credit at the high school and the college. This program covers the cost of tuition, fees and books. There may be addition equipment fees depending on the classes a student registers for.

PSEO students can take one class through college or they can take all their courses through college. They can use PSEO as a way to explore what college will be like, try different technical classes to help decide on a future career, or complete a full AAS, AS degree. PSEO is designed for the student to take charge of the education and future. At DCTC PSEO students will work closely with their advisor to ensure their educational goals are being met, that they are successful in their classes, and to navigate the next steps after PSEO.

PSEO is at no cost to the high school student. All classes, textbooks, and fees will be covered. There may be instances with certain programs where students are expected to purchase non-consumable tools which they will keep at the end of the semester. These tools and their cost are the responsibility of the student and are not covered in the PSEO program.


Damian Dvorak Q & A

Damian Dvorak

What do you like best about the Heavy Duty Truck Technology program?

I would say that the instructors in the program are the best part. Being able to work with them has allowed me to deal with other people in my life and at the workplace. The HDTT instructors have been very supportive. They enjoy seeing me being that I am working a f

Why did you choose heavy duty truck maintenance and repair as your career path?

I chose HDTT because everybody is hiring at a decent wage, and I know friends who have gone through the same program.

What is the most challenging aspect of heavy duty truck maintenance and repair?

The biggest issue in HDTT is the way every truck has to pass a DOT inspection and brought up to date. Due to COVID lots of parts are on back order.

Words that describe you as a heavy duty truck technician:
What are your favorite heavy duty truck brands?

My favorite truck brands are Western Star and Peterbilt.

What advice would you give students thinking about majoring in Heavy Duty Truck Technology?

The thing every employer and school is looking for is a willingness to work.

What advice would you give students thinking about doing PSEO?

As a PSEO student, I was able to get everything paid for and get out of high school with a two-year degree. If you are in high school and reading this, talk to your school about PSEO. It is the way to go.

What person has influenced you the most in life and why?

My parents have been very united and very prominent in my life. They gave me the opportunity to build “dangerous contraptions” and learn why they didn’t work. Those were my most valuable lessons being that I have to visually see how something works or how it doesn’t. A vehicle that I built would last two weeks before it broke, and then I would spend another week trying to modify it to work better with scrap lawnmower parts or other parts out of the 20 vehicles I’ve built. The vehicle would end up working really well before it disassembled itself due to a badly built part.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

In 20 years, I could see myself as an engineer or a lawyer.

Bus and Truck Mechanics

Maintain or repair any type of diesel engine.


Above the statewide median of $21.49/hour


Median: $25.36.93/hour
High: $30.37/hour

Seven-county Twin Cities metro

Median: $26.94/hour
High: $31.54/hour


In Minnesota, there are 7,100 workers employed in this medium-sized career. This career is currently in high demand and is seeing high growth compared to other careers. Growth rate is 6.4 percent, or above the statewide average. There will be a need for about 7,524 new Bus and Truck Mechanics to meet market demand between 2018–2028. This includes the demand due to replacement (workers leaving the occupation or retiring) as well as growth.

Minnesota State CAREERwise Education

Damian Dvorak 11 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: I really enjoy downhill skiing and am pretty good at it; for summer sports, I really enjoy volleyball and as always I love every type of powersport.
  2. Place you would most like to visit: I would like a trip to Moscow or Portugal.
  3. Four things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: I am not a betting man, but if someone gave me $1 billion, I would 1) Invest it 2) Buy a new truck 3) Pay off a house and have a cabin somewhere 4) Send my kids to school
  4. Favorite TV show you’re watching now: I didn’t grow up with a TV and will never have one.
  5. Time period you would explore if you could time travel: I would like to have been born in 1905 and be a teenager in 1920.
  6. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: I would like to get married and have kids and hopefully own a business.
  7. Your national bird if you were your own country: Eagle
  8. Dream occupation: I would love to own a business of some sort and run it independently.
  9. Person you would most like to meet: I would like to meet Donald Trump and talk to him and Melanie Trump in private.
  10. Skill you would most like to learn and master: I would love to become a skilled pianist.
  11. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: The refusal to abide be natures laws and basic moral laws
Learn more about Heavy Duty Truck Technology at DCTC by contacting:

Kenneth Klassen
Heavy Duty Truck Technology Faculty

Pete Szybatka
Heavy Duty Truck Technology Faculty

Edwin White
Heavy Duty Truck Technology Faculty