The Toronto Congress Centre came alive with thousands of visitors as it played host to the 29th annual Skills Ontario Competition from May 7-9, 2018. IBEW apprentices made a very impressive showing, coming home with the gold and bronze medals.
Walking through the main doors to the competition floor, the energy is unmistakable. Thousands of people milling about the four competition zones not only generate a lot of noise, but an exciting ambiance as well.
On your left, students and apprentices compete in the areas set up for CNC machining and auto service technology. On your right is a powerline technician workshop and an aircraft maintenance zone.
But if you make your way through the thick crowd to the back of the centre, you’ll find the electrical installations area, sponsored by ECAO and the IBEW.
It’s All About the Trade
Steven Martin, business manager of Local 353, says, “It’s not about union or non-union – it’s about the electrical industry promoting and supporting our trade.”
Twenty secondary and seventeen post-secondary competitors participated in the electrical installation competition. At stake was a chance to move on to the national Skills competition in Edmonton June 4 – 5.
Secondary students were given a project that you would find in a residential setting. It required them to install device boxes and run wiring to make them functional.
Post-secondary apprentices were challenged to complete a more complicated task, running conduit in addition to the wiring to the boxes – an installation you might encounter in the ICI (industrial, commercial and institutional) sector.
George Kardaras, a former Skills medallist from Local 586 Ottawa, says that the actual tasks are important learning experiences in themselves.
“You’re doing stuff that you may not do every day. In the competition, you’re a one-man show but on the jobsite, you’re one of a hundred people and you’ve got a foreman to ask,” Kardaras says.
Participating in a competition like Skills also allows apprentices to begin building an extensive network of contacts that can last a lifetime.
“It not only gives you the opportunity to shine, but it gives you connections to meet in the industry that you normally you couldn’t,” say Virginia Pohler, who competed and placed in the 2006 Skills Competition.
Kelly Burke, an active member of the ECAO-IBEW Skills committee and vice president of operations at Ampere Electric, adds that there are other benefits for apprentices trying to build a future.
“Not only do they get to meet important people in the industry, but it starts to provide the framework for their growth in life and their careers,” says Burke.
Trade showcases at events like Skills also raises awareness about an industry that is sometimes overlooked by young people as a primary career option.
“Elevating the profile of the trade is very important. We need to show the public what the trade is about,” says Pohler. “It’s about making them realize that a trade is a career choice, not just a fallback position.”
Gold, Bronze Medals for IBEW Apprentices
Over the past 20 years, 70% of Skills medallists have been IBEW apprentices. This year was no different.
Two members of IBEW made the trip to the medals podium. The Gold Medal was won by Matthew O’Rourke from Local 120, with the Bronze Medal claimed by David Butson of Local 105.
Other IBEW apprentices also made a very strong showing, with final scores just a point or two behind the top three. Andrew Padre-Cure (Local 804), Jon Schoenwandt (Local 115), Mitchell Weynerowski (Local 586), Johnathan Holla (Local 1687), and Matthew Golbourne (Local 353), all left with an unforgettable experience and new friendships. You can read about the extra effort and training that the candidates put in to prepare for Skills here.
Martin sums it up well: “Competitions like this build long term relationships and leaders of the future. At the end of the day, we want the best people working in our trade.”
- Written by Iram Partap
- Photos by Tim Shilson