Preparing for the Future: The Skills Canada Competition - Tire Review Magazine

Preparing for the Future: The Skills Canada Competition

(Longqueuil, Quebec/Tire News) As every shop owner knows, the future of the automotive industry is in students working toward a career in the skilled trades.

But it’s not an easy sell; many young people reject the work as dirty and difficult, and not as respectable as business or computer programming.

Skills/CompÉtences Canada is working to change that. The national, not-for-profit organization actively promotes careers in skilled trades and technologies to Canadian youth; last May, it held the Skills Canada Canadian Competition (CSC) in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Set up as an Olympic-style contest, the CSC gives students practical challenges designed to test their skills. The CSC rewards students for their excellence, directly involves the industry in evaluating student performance, and keeps training relevant to employers’ needs. Such competitions allow students to access the newest technologies, and communicate with industry experts who serve as mentors.

Students compete in a wide variety of trade and industry events, from cooking to plumbing; the top three win Gold, Bronze or Silver medals. In Automotive Service Secondary (high school), the 2006 winners were Hugo Frenette of Quebec, Keith Stonehouse of British Columbia, and Mitchell McPherson of Manitoba; in Automotive Service Post-Secondary (college), the top three were Nathan Banke of Ontario, Jimmy Voth of Manitoba, and Pierre Martell of New Brunswick.

Many companies contribute sponsorship to the event, including Snap-on, which was both the contest sponsor and the product supplier for the two automotive service levels. In addition, Snap-on provided tools and equipment for the small power equipment competition, sponsored by Yamaha Canada.

Skills/CompÉtences Canada also participates in the global WorldSkills. Every two years, competition winners from more than 40 countries gather to compete; at the event in Helsinki, Finland in 2005, Canada sent 28 students who brought home two gold, two silver and two bronze medals, as well as nine Medallions of Excellence, one of which was for automotive service and won by Jarred Wegner of Alberta.

The competition moves to Japan in 2007, but in 2009, it comes to Canada for only the second time, when it will be held in Calgary.

Headquartered in Gatineau, Quebec, Skills/CompÉtences Canada not only reaches out to students; it also actively develops partnerships with agencies and organizations involved in promoting skilled trades and technologies.

“It’s really important to promote careers in skilled trades, and the competition does this,” says Gail Smyth, Skills Canada Ontario Executive Director. “There’s still a very poor perception of careers in the skilled trades. There are many opportunities to grow, and to start your own business, and we need to promote that.

One way is through the skills competition; another is through our in-school presentation program. In Ontario last year we presented to 3,500 classrooms and 100,000 young people.

“Around 70% to 75% of the young people we see are more likely to choose a career in the skilled trades or technology because of our presentation. They’re not going to choose a career if they’re not aware of it. And there was a time when there was a perception in high school that the skilled trades were for people who weren’t doing well. We’re telling them that apprenticeship is as viable as college or university, and they’re realizing that it really is an exciting choice for a career.”

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