The trade brigade

Students and apprentices from across Canada competing in national skills competition in Winnipeg


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It was organized chaos — young people in hard hats and safety goggles bashing tin, grinding metal and using giant electric saws to slice through brick and lumber inside the cavernous third-floor exhibit hall of the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/06/2017 (2014 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It was organized chaos — young people in hard hats and safety goggles bashing tin, grinding metal and using giant electric saws to slice through brick and lumber inside the cavernous third-floor exhibit hall of the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg.

In another part of the massive three-storey complex, there were also gown-clad makeup artists applying eyeshadow to the faces of student models — and apron-clad chefs whipping up a new culinary masterpiece.

It was part of the second day of activities at this year’s Skills Canada National Competition, which is being held in Winnipeg for the first time in 13 years.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Ashley Weber, a two-time gold medal winner in the Skills Canada National Competition, one as a high school student and the other as a post-secondary competitor, focuses on taping a vehicle before spray-painting.

Skills/Compétences Canada is a not-for-profit organization that works with employers, educators, labour groups and governments to promote skilled trades and technology careers among Canadian youth.

Its annual Skills Canada National Competition is the country’s only national, multi-trade and technology competition for students and apprentices. This year’s event has 550 students and apprentices from across the country competing for medals in more than 40 skilled trade and technology categories, including robotics, cabinet-making, welding, autobody repair, computer-assisted design and manufacturing, graphic design, landscape gardening, cooking, hairstyling and fashion technology.

Maria Pacella, executive director of the Manitoba branch of Skills Canada, said the four-day event is expected to generate more than $2.5 million in economic benefits for the local economy.

She noted that from 1,500 to 1,700 people from across Canada are attending the event, including competitors, teachers and advisers, technical committee representatives and volunteers.

On top of that, a record 10,000-plus middle school, high school and post-secondary students from throughout Manitoba will be attending to learn about career opportunities in the various trade and technology fields, and gain hands-on experience through interactive activities.

This year’s competitors include 63 students and apprentices from a variety of Manitoba high schools and post secondary institutions, including Red River College, Assiniboine Community College, University College of the North, the Manitoba Institute of Trade and Technology and Tech Voc High School.

One of the local participants is RRC student Tyson Rudney, who is competing in the heavy-duty mechanics category after winning a gold medal earlier this year in the Manitoba version of the competition.

“I’m learning a lot,” Rudney said during a midday lull in the action. “It makes me really think because I’m competing with the best from across Canada.”

Two local gold medal winners from last year’s national competition — Silas Meeches and Ashley Weber — are also attending this year’s event. They’re not there to compete but to gain valuable practice time as they prepare to represent Canada at the World Skills Competition being held this October in the United Arab Emirates.

Meeches, 21, is a 2016 graduate of RRC’s manufacturing technician’s program. He said being a medal winner will hopefully help land him an aerospace job after he returns from this fall’s world competition.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Silas Meeches, a graduate of RRC’s manufacturing technician’s program, perfects his skills Thursday.

“What I also like about this competition is that you can showcase how much you love your trade and how good you are at it,” he said.

Although only 19, Weber has won two gold medals in the national competition, one as a high school student and one as a post-secondary competitor. She’s also been working for the last two years at a local autobody shop — Urban Autobody — while she continues her apprenticeship training at RRC.

Weber said when she started high school, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to be a carpenter, an automotive mechanic or an autobody/car painting specialist.

“But as soon as I got to spray-paint a vehicle, that was it for me. That’s when I made up my mind that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

Her parents, Wade and Gale Weber, were on hand Thursday to watch their daughter hone her car-painting skills.

“She chose it on her own,” a beaming Gale said of her daughter’s career choice. “We’re both very proud of her.”

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