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News   June 13, 2018   by Allan Janssen

COMMENT: Skills competitions are a great way to promote the trades

The next generation of technicians routinely display their skills - and their passion for productive work - at competitions across the country.


Alicia Bulitka of Algonquin College tackles a brake job at the SkillsOntario competition.

There’s something very magical about a skills competition.

If you’ve never been to one, do yourself a favour and clear your schedule the next time one is organized in your province. Even if it means driving a few hours, I promise it will be worth it. It’s truly inspiring to see thousands of brilliant young people plying their crafts, using their heads and hands in the pursuit of excellence.

By the time you read this, SkillsCanada 2018 – the national event that serves as the culmination of the Canadian season – will have taken place in Edmonton, bringing students and apprentices together from every province to demonstrate their passion for their chosen trades.

It always generates an air of excitement and celebration. Colleges and businesses stage creative interactive exhibits, organize fun challenges, and hand out trinkets and literature. And, above all, the competitions are absolutely riveting to watch.

Matt Lebow of Loyalist College at Skills Ontario 2018

It’s the perfect venue to introduce visiting school children to the exciting world of skilled trades. No doubt many of them leave with fresh ideas of what their futures could look like.

My own niece, Ashley, 15 years old and full of wonder, attended the SkillsOntario competition in May with me. She came away with thoughtful questions about how universities differ from colleges, and why some students forestall their careers for years without the promise of a job at the end of it. She was impressed that the apprentices she watched compete would soon march into a well-paying career with plenty of room for advancement and fulfillment. She saw first-hand the sense of pride and accomplishment they derived from their work.

And there was some confusion, too, because she’d always been told that kids who are smart and talented, should really aspire to attend university. Colleges, with their shortened learning terms and work placements, are strictly second choice. But here was a room full of creative and accomplished young people proudly choosing that stream.

Instructor Dave Vollmer advises Sarah Stoliker of Loyalist College.

I was not surprised at how naturally and confidently I could recommend the skilled trades to her as a viable and profitable career path.

Promoting skills is incredibly important these days. Canadian teachers and parents have guided children down the path of academia so effectively and for so long that we’re now reaping a shortage of frontline workers. We’ve become desperate for young people who possess practical knowledge and abilities. Many trades are in full-blown crisis mode.

The kind of highly skilled students and apprentices that impressed the judges in skills competitions across the country this year are in high demand. Workopolis, an online HR resource, says Canada’s shortage of tradespeople is expected to hit at least one million by 2020. The National Association of Career Colleges reports that automotive service technician is the second-most desirable trade in Canada, just behind construction workers.

Are you looking for your next tech? You may well find them in the shop class at your local high school, in a motive power course at a nearby college, or impressing the judges at the next skills competition.

Like I said, do yourself a favour and check it out!

 

Let me know what you think. You can reach me at allan@newcom.ca.