They've got skills: Students test a variety of trades

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By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario –
Aspiring welders, budding journalists, and fledgling mechanics packed St. Lawrence College on Wednesday to test their skills in a variety of trades.

As sparks ricocheted off a state-of-the-art virtual welding machine, Braydon Oakley, a grade 12 student from Perth and District Collegiate Institute, was in the thick of big competition.

Oakley was one of 300 high school students competing in the annual Skills Canada Regional Competition for eastern Ontario at the college on February 26.

Students participated in 16 trades-related events, including: small engine repair, two-person carpentry, automotive service technology, cabinet making, and prepared speech.

The opportunity to impress future employers and earn bragging rights over fellow students extends after this regional qualifier with national and international competitions.

"This is a great chance to try new technology and see how good I am at welding compared to all the other students," said Oakley.

He was able to test his skills on the RealWeld Trainer from the Edison Welding Institute (EWI), which digitally records motions, techniques, and calculates the welder's score and performance.

Marc Bissonnette, a supervisor for the welding portion of the skills competition, was thrilled to have the sophisticated machine at the college, which was shipped over from Saskatchewan and is scheduled to arrive at Algonquin College in Ottawa after the event.

"This machine is a real game-changer," said Bissonnette, from Praxair Canada. "The welder can do all the practice without using any costly materials such as steel, wire or welding gases."

Meanwhile, in the college gymnasium, dozens of students hammered their way through the carpentry section of the competition.

Up against a tight deadline to build a boot bench, Reed Murphy and Jeremy Kirkham, both from Perth, wasted no time as they measured and cut a large pile of wood.

For Kirkham, the competition was a unique glimpse into the profession he aspires to make his career.

"They give you a deadline like you were working in the real world, so it's a nice way for me to test my skills," he said.

But competing a few feet away from last year's carpentry champs, Tiffany Roskell and Ashley Smith, from Seaway District High School in Iroquois, was a little nerve-wracking. The duo went all the way to the provincials in 2013.

"It was exciting, we didn't expect it," said Roskell.

They admitted that neither had any prior experience with building or using tools. Once they graduate, Smith will be pursuing a career in agriculture and her teammate will be enrolling in a behavioral science technology program. But the competition has opened their eyes to a skill set that would've otherwise went unnoticed.

"This competition is great because it shows that girls can do this kind of work too," said Smith.

Results of the competition will be released in the upcoming days.

Organizations: Algonquin College, Edison Welding Institute, Perth and District Collegiate Institute Praxair Canada Seaway District High School

Geographic location: Eastern Ontario, Saskatchewan, Ottawa Perth

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