CNC hosts skills showdown

Avery Bell has rung up the competition once again.

For the second year in a row, the celebrated young carpenter is the high school champion in the cabinetmaking category of the Skills Canada Central Interior Regional Skills Competition.

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"The Grade 12 student from Correlieu Secondary in Quesnel was the provincial winner last year, and went on to place third at the Skills Canada National Competition in New Brunswick," said Catherine Hansen McCarthy, communications officer at the College of New Caledonia where the event was held.

Second place in high school cabinetmaking went to Garnet Grenon and third to Scott Sargent.

The other categories and their winners are as follows:

Welding (Post-Secondary) - 1. Samuel Baker 2. Tristan Dean 3. Ryan Phillips

Culinary Arts (Post-Secondary) - 1. Kara Wickum 2. Aaron Ivanoff

Culinary Arts (Secondary) - 1. Laura Parent 2. Katelynn Baerg 3. Matyas Legate-Sary

Carpentry (Post-Secondary) - 1. Delbert George 2. Runar Odisson 3. Tanna Geisbrecht

Heavy Duty Mechanics (Post-Secondary) -

1. Devon Wood 2. (tie) Kolten Appler and Brayden Maves

Machinist (Post-Secondary) - 1. Devin Rentz 2. Mike McClaskey

Automotive Service (Secondary) - 1. Reid Jackson 2. Nolan Peake

There were 50 students in total vying for the prizes in the suite of events at CNC. They were divided into high school and secondary divisions. Plus another 96 competitors - all of them in Grade 7 - went head to head in teams of two to four students to see which of their classroom-made wooden windmills would generate the most electricity when blown by a giant fan.

Another 200 elementary students were shown around the trades and technology facilities at CNC to give them an inside view of what their classrooms would look like if they pursued the industrial professions.

"This doesn't count towards their school grades, it's just a bonus activity and gives them some excitement over the possibilities," said Frank Rossi, Dean of Trades at CNC.

Some of the more involved competitions - cabinetmaking and carpentry - took the competitors more than three hours to work through. Others like the automotive disciplines were about an hour's worth of puzzling and problem-solving.

"We planted a glitch, and they have to use diagnostic tools to find it," said Rossi as the students fiddled with brakes and engines and other vehicle parts trying to locate the source of the imbedded problem.

"They have a list of instructions, they have a set of tools they can use, they have a time limit, and a systematic approach to how they do it," Rossi explained. All tasks were done under the watchful gaze of instructors and professionals from the industry who came to CNC as guest judges.

One of those volunteer professionals was mechanic Lee McElhinney of the Northland Auto Group.

"It's nice to see the young guys getting into the profession," he said. "We really need more students getting involved in the automotive professions, and we want to help in any way we can. There seems to be a bit of a shortage right now."

Getting them interested in the concepts behind trades and technology professions is easier done by using competitive fun, according to the organizers of the event. Building a little windmill out of wood and seeing how it handles a fan's force is mostly a game in the minds of the Grade 7 competitors, but they are also applying a lot of trades science and workmanship.

"It was scary when we first (got our kit)," said Amarleen Bhatti, one of the members of a Peden Hill elementary school team.

"I was so excited to try it. We tried a smaller design first, it didn't work, so we shaped the blades and added longer arms. The blades and the length were the important parts."

Some of the little turbines whizzed in the laboratory wind, some made a few revolutions, and some stared back blankly, unmoving. The kids were full of high-fives and back pats for each other, no matter what the result.

This was the second year that the B.C. division of Skills Canada worked with CNC to hold these championships. Other regional competitions are scheduled for later this winter in Kamloops, Dawson Creek and Terrace. The winners from each will be invited to compete again on April 5 in Abbotsford for the provincial round.

"In Abbotsford it is quite a production," said Rossi. "Here the competitions are quiet, there's a lot of concentration, but down there you're competing with thousands of kids. It is quite a lot of commotion. It really brings out the best."

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