Students test their skills, try out trades at annual competition

High school students from across Northeast B.C. had a chance to strut their stuff in a regional skills competition Friday in Dawson Creek, while Grade 7 students got a sneak peek at some of the trades they might want to pursue as a career.

Skills Canada BC and Northern Lights College, along with School Districts 59, 60, and 81, combined efforts to pack bodies into the college's aircraft hangar Feb. 19.

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Josh Belkin builds a dog house as part of the carpentry competition. - Mike Carter

The skills competition was one of 13 regional contests in the province where students from Grades 6 to 12 showcased their talents in trades and technologies.

At the same time, industry professionals and current students at the college walked Grade 7 students through different trades, including carpentry, digital media arts, plumbing, auto service and welding.

"We have everything from carpenters building tool boxes with kids (to) wind turbine technicians helping kids design different blades," School District 59 career program co-ordinator Brad Booker said, adding the wind turbine techs flew in from Texas and Minnesota to take part.

Students rotated through 18 different "try-a-trade" stations spending about 20 minutes at each.

"Five minutes to meet an industry professional, get some information about what their job is like and how they got where they are and then about 15 minutes of hands-on activity," Booker said.

Tim Roberts, a plumbing instructor at the college, had his first-year students draw up a small blueprint that he used to show kids the basics of the trade.

Fort Nelson Secondary student Larissa Ganske competes in the hairdressing competition. - Mike Carter

"Basically, we're just going through what a plumber does," he said. "Most people (think) we just work on toilets and that's it. But there's so much more."

Roberts spoke proudly about one project his class is working on: a solar mockup heating panel for domestic hot water, which he showcased to students as an example of some of the innovative work plumbers are involved in.

"In Dawson Creek now, every house has to be solar-ready," Roberts said. "We have to take pipe from the mechanic room where the hot water tank is up into the attic so that it's ready. That's one of the new things we're doing in the trade, building these mockups and showing students how they work."

Booker said the event was much bigger than last year.

"What was neat about last year is when we got our evaluation forms back, the things that the kids were excited about were the atypical trades," Booker said. "Different things that they never would have had the opportunity to try out. That's the breadth of exposure we wanted to give ... something other than what they might try out at home on the weekend."

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