Truck and coach students strut their stuff in Skills Ontario competition

Joe Edwards, a Level 2 apprentice at Algonquin College, works to complete the first of 10 stations at Skills Ontario 2018.

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – Seven apprentices in truck and coach mechanics programs from across the province showed off their abilities Tuesday at the Skills Ontario competition at the Toronto Congress Center.

The annual showcase featured 68 unique trades and technology contests for Ontario students from Grade 4 through apprenticeship.

Competitors in the truck and coach category qualify to represent their colleges through in-school and regional competitions which, like their provincial counterpart, includes a 100-question written test in addition to practical demonstrations.

Working against the clock the competitors had just 40 minutes at each of 10 stations to show their stuff. Each station was evaluated by a professor from one of the participating truck and coach programs.

Joe Edwards was one of two students from Algonquin College to qualify for the competition. After completing his first two stations the Level 2 apprentice was confident in his skills.

“So far it’s awesome. It’s nerve wracking,” he said.

Along with medals for the top three competitors in each category, the two-day program offers post-secondary schools and apprenticeship programs the opportunity to market themselves to prospective students – and vice versa.

A majority of students competing in last year’s program said they were more likely to consider a career in a trades field after participating in last year’s event, while 18 apprentices from various fields walked away with job offers.

Each category features a recent graduate competitor to represent the Ontario Ministry of Advance Education and Skills Development (MAESD), to help showcase what’s possible with a completed apprenticeship program.

Ben Burkholder, representing Conestoga College, moved quickly to complete tasks at the 2018 Skills Ontario competition.

“There are huge demands on trades and we really need to inspire our youth to get into the trades,” says MAESD’s provincial planning team lead Lori-Ann Duguay. “MAESD is that missing link to register as an apprentice, to get into school… it’s important for us to provide that map to what does that look like.”

Ben Burkholder followed that map and recently completed his Level 3 apprenticeship through Conestoga College, which he was representing in the truck and coach competition.

After finishing his program Burkholder was able to get a job working with a logging company in Bancroft, Ont. His extra experience didn’t make the contest any less nerve-wracking for the young journeyman, however.

“I feel pretty good, but there’s some stuff [in the competition] I don’t really get into where I work.”

The show reported a good turnout of students looking for information on career choices in addition to those competing. MAESD said they had more than 600 visitors to their booth on Day 1 and expected more in the second day.

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