April 21st, 2024

High school students put their skills to the test


By Justin Seward - Lethbridge Herald on March 19, 2024.

Herald photo by Justin Seward Jeffrey Van Velthuizen, from Calvin Christian School, measures pieces of wood during the carpentry competition at the South West Regional Skills Canada Competition on Saturday at Lethbridge College.

Area high school students put their skills on display in various faculties during the Career Transitions South West Regional Skills Competition on Saturday at Lethbridge College.

The competition is meant to promote career pathways in skilled trades for high school students in the region.

Students had the opportunity to compete in trades such as automotive service technology, baking, cabinet making, carpentry, culinary arts, electrical installations, fashion technology, junior and intermediate hairstyling, photography, video production and welding.

“These kids are our future workforce,” said Judy Stolk-Ingram, Career Transitions executive director.

“And so to watch them performing at such an amazing level, it’s just so great to see.”

The competition added electrical installations and a plumbing challenge this year.

“I think because there are plenty of RAP (Registered Apprenticeship Program) students in those two disciplines,” she said.

“We wanted to offer those students the opportunity to compete at this level to push themselves, to really grow themselves as current and future employees. We want them to have the opportunity to understand how skills can help them to just advance their own career pathway.”

Stolk-Ingram said she is impressed that students sign up for and attend the competition.

“I think it’s a huge thing for some students,” she said.

“It’s a big push out of their comfort zone and so to actually push themselves, I think that is an accomplishment in it of itself and I’m really proud of all of them for that.”

She had also noticed the focus of the students.

“These students were just like nose to the grind stone,” said Stolk-Ingram.

“They didn’t even know we were in touring, they were so focused on their projects. So I think it bodes well for our employers in this area to see kids that are willing to work that hard and push themselves.”

Stolk-Ingram said that students surprise themselves in what they accomplish.

“In many cases because students have the contest descriptions in advance, they have ample opportunity to practice and rehearse and prepare,” she said.

“So many of them have set themselves up to a very high standard and sometime at the end of the day, the marking, it might only be a point or two difference. That’s how talented and skilled many of these students are.”

The students learn dedication and resilience, as well as problem solving.

“In any of these trade areas, things can go wrong, things can get mucked up, the equipment might not work right, or the materials that you’re working with might be faulty or any number of things can go wrong,” said Stolk-Ingram.

Darian Virostek came back to judge in the welding competition after being a competitor.

“We’re looking for weld sizes, complete parameters and all and all it’s mostly visual on the welds,” said Virostek.

“Visual and fit up is a big part of it as well.”

Virostek felt it was an honour for his instructors to choose him to come back to judge.

“We had such good times in the past with welding,” he said.

LCI’s Hayden Gillespie was participating in the cabinet making competition and he is apprenticing in the trade.

“I love working with wood and building stuff,” said Gillespie.

“I came last year and it was super fun, so I wanted to do better and try to push myself.”

Gillepsie learned from last year’s competition to find a balance between going too slow or fast.

“If you make mistakes, do your best to fix them, take your time to make sure that your measurements are right,” he said.

Contestants were up 50 per cent from last year’s event.

The day ended with additions to the Skills Wall of Honour which recognizes those past post-secondary skills participants who have represented the college and earned medals at provincial,national and world competitions.

Gold medalists will go to Edmonton for the provincial competition on May 8 and 9 and if successful there they will head to the national competition in Quebec City on May 30 and 31.

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