Friday, December 10, 2010

Ms. Skills – From the Executive Director

Ontario Improves Skilled Trade System

For the past 22 years we have been promoting careers in the skilled trades and technologies as viable, first choice career options for young people.  We have had many wonderful success stories and have encouraged many students across the province to pursue a very rewarding career choice.

Despite these accomplishments our team still has a big mountain to climb – the mountain of misconception.  How do we enhance the value, or importance, of skilled trade and technological careers in our society?

Careers in medicine, law, and education are respected career choices – as they should be, because they are important.  But where would these professionals perform their work without qualified tradespeople to design, construct and maintain our hospitals, courthouses and schools?

Many of the professions mentioned above have a regulatory body, such as the College of Physicians and Surgeons, College of Nurses and the Ontario College of Teachers.  These professional bodies have a very important function, such as issuing licenses, advocating on behalf of the profession, and improving the knowledge and skills of its members.  It also gives these professions credibility and garners greater respect from the public.

In the Fall of 2009, the Government of Ontario established the Ontario College of Trades.  The College of Trades will be a regulatory body that gives industry a greater role in recruitment, governance, certification and apprenticeship training.  It will also give the skilled trades a professional regulatory body similar to teachers, doctors and nurses.

I was proud to have been one of nine industry leaders chosen to serve as the Appointments Council and interim Board for the Ontario College of Trades.  The College will establish a framework of fees to support itself, and develop a complaints, enforcement and discipline system to govern its members.

As a member of the Council I was able to recommend that Kevin Piunno, a past competitor from the Ontario Technological Skills Competition, design a new website for the College. 

Kevin, a 2nd-year student from Niagara College, has been competing at the Ontario Technological Skills Competition since he was a secondary school student at the Niagara District School Board.  As a secondary school competitor, Kevin earned a gold medal in 2008 and a silver medal in 2009 in the Website Development contest.  Kevin competed in Website Development again in May 2010 as a post-secondary school student, earning his second gold medal.

The Ontario College of Trades website ( will be launched very soon.  Good work, Kevin!

We know we still have a large part of the mountain to climb, however with the establishment of the College of Trades, we are one step closer to the summit.

For information on the College of Trades, visit

Monday, December 6, 2010

Skills Work!® for Women – Jessica Steffler, Civil Engineering Technologist

One of the best hidden secrets about skilled trade and technology careers is that they often open doors to a variety of other career experiences.  From business management and ownership, engineering or architecture to law and teaching, many journeypersons, technicians and technologists can find themselves in any number of different fields.

Jessica Steffler is just one of those people.  A graduate of the Civil Engineering Technologist program at Conestoga College, Jessica always exhibited strong skills in math, and was introduced to the civil construction industry through her father.  Civil Engineering Technologists have a wide range of duties, including design and preparation of construction drawings, planning and scheduling projects and conducting field and laboratory tests on soils, asphalt and concrete.

Despite enjoying the work, it didn’t take Jessica very long to recognize that there was a shortage of good, skilled workers, and one major barrier to filling those spaces:  “the misconceptions that educators and parents have about working in careers in construction and skilled trades.” 

After four years in the industry, Jessica started a new organization – the Ontario Civil Construction Careers Institute.  As Director of the organization, her days are spent in extensive travel around Ontario, speaking to high school students about careers in civil construction, engineering and skilled trades.  She also created the website, posters, literature and resources for guidance departments, allowing her to draw on her creativity and people skills.

In this position Jessica gets to travel and meet new people all the time.  Every day is different, and she continually inspires students to try something new, and helps them get into apprenticeships.  She would like to see the OCCCI expand significantly over the next five years.

Jessica has been involved with Skills Canada – Ontario for the last two years, promoting civil construction careers at our Summer Camp and Young Women’s programs.  The similar aims between the two organizations created a natural partnership between the two organizations.

This fall, Jessica has mentored at a number of “Skills Work!® for Women” Networking Dinners this year, the most recent being the Toronto Networking Dinner, held on November 23.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Skills Work!® for Women – Brenda Swystun, Project Manager

Some people are lucky enough to pursue a career that fascinates and impassions them.  Brenda Swystun is an even more fortunate person: the trades pursued her.  Sometimes I guess your path is laid out before you but it’s up to you to make the most out of the opportunity.” 

As the former Plant Manager for Lafarge Concrete, Brenda secured the Sault Hospital foundations project, an undertaking that included a substantial amount of concrete with very specific requirements.  She has been a part of the building materials industry since leaving high school.

These days, Brenda can be found at Huckson Plumbing and Renovations, working as a Project Manager.  The organization focuses on residential renovation, which can be as simple as a tub replacement or as complex as a full kitchen renovation.

Her role involves her in all parts of a project, starting from estimates and sales, through material and labour scheduling to ensuring customer satisfaction at the end.  As a woman in a male-dominated industry, Brenda admits that she turned a few heads when she first started in the material building trades. 

Having a woman show up on a major commercial project seemed to create a bit of a work slow-down.  I kept myself focused on my job responsibilities and eventually my customers came to respect my contributions to their projects.”  Brenda was even recently elected President of the construction association in the Sault Ste. Marie area.

Despite all the knowledge she has gained about plumbing, drywall and interior finishing, and concrete manufacturing, Brenda’s most valuable skill is a surprising one.

“The most important skill I find I use on a regular basis is communication.  Between the demands of supervising employees and dealing with the private sector I find that my verbal skills for either sales or managing the staff are my most powerful tool.”  Over the next five years, Brenda hopes to increase the renovation projects that are taken on by Huckson, and strongly encourages other young women to pursue similar careers.

“Building things is not gender specific, it’s a natural talent.   There’s an artistic component to any trade, you need to be able to visualize what you want and then don’t be afraid to try and make it.  It may take a while but eventually you will possess the skills and knowledge to get the job done well.”

Brenda mentored students at the Sault Ste. Marie “Skills Work!® for Women” Networking Dinner on November 25th.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Cardboard Boat Races and Video Challenge

We’re often asked, “what’s a cardboard boat race?”  The answer?  It’s exactly what it sounds like!

The Secondary Cardboard Boat Race and Video Challenge is looming on the horizon and it’s going to be a blast!  This year, we’re introducing the People’s Choice Award for the video challenge.  All videos submitted will be posted on YouTube in mid-December, and voting will be open for two weeks.  Here’s a taste of what’s involved for the boat race teams and a sample of what we’re looking for from the video teams:

For more info and guidelines, please visit:
And don’t forget to vote for the People’s Choice Award!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Skills Work!® in Partnership

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
                                                                                                  -- George B. Shaw

While it is often taken for granted, one of the most difficult tasks in the world is actually transmitting an idea from one person’s head into someone else’s.  Technology can help with this action, but nothing beats face-to-face meetings – everything else is a substitute, it is not something better. 

One of the great strengths of Skills Canada - Ontario is its team of Liaison Officers spread out across the province.  This dedicated group of young people spend their working days visiting schools, talking with teachers, talking with students and making presentations.  They are the vanguard out in front, providing students with awareness of the virtual limitless possibilities of a career path in skilled trades and technologies.

The Ontario Mining Association has been an active partner with Skills Canada - Ontario for more than five years.  Celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, the OMA is one of the longest serving trade organizations in the country. We represent companies engaged in the responsible exploration, extraction and processing of Ontario’s mineral resources. 

Like other sectors, mining foresees a future demand for technologically smart and skilled people.  The flip side of this need for industry is boundless opportunity for young people embarking on training for future employment. 

The OMA is proud to be a financial supporter of Skills Canada – Ontario.   We believe in the mandate of Skills Canada - Ontario to promote careers in skilled trades and technologies as viable, first choice employment options for young people.  However, in some ways being a partner with an educational organization is like being a member of a health club – the more you use it, the more you get out of it.

With this in mind, along with its financial support, the OMA contributes to many aspects of Skills Canada – Ontario:
  • The “Skills Work!® What’s Out There?” in-school presentation program
  • The Skills Work!® career profile publication
  • Exhibits and activities at the Ontario Technological Skills Competition,
  • The Cardboard Boat Races
  • Promotes general awareness of the need for technological skills, particularly in mining involvement.
More than 600,000 students benefit from the programs and activities of Skills Canada - Ontario facilitates every year, and the OMA is committed to build on this partnership.

Do you think you know mining?  You might be surprised.

Friday, November 19, 2010

“Skills Work!® for Women” – Kristi Montovani, Landscape Designer

Creativity is the name of the game for Kristi Montovani.  She uses it to create beautiful living spaces for her clients, to learn the newest trends and technologies of her trade, and even to deal with everyday challenges as they arise.

A graduate of both the Landscape Technician and Arts and Design Fundamentals programs at Niagara College, Kristi is the General Manager of Snips Landscape & Nursery.  Her work has multiple faces:  designing landscapes, installation and field work, staff management, marketing and client relations.  “The project I am probably most proud of was designing and installing the outer and interior landscape for the Niagara Catholic District Board Office in Welland.”  Kristi gets to approach this ongoing project with some fresh ideas every year, and it opened the door to other projects with the school board.

Now that she is the General Manager at Snips Landscape & Nursery, Kristi has a big vision.  Green roofs are becoming a significant trend in many Ontario cities, and Kristi is hoping to capitalize on that.  “I would like to expand on our green roofing department and to broaden our use of other ‘green’ technologies. I want to be known as a pioneer in the ‘green’ landscaping industry!”

Kristi’s success didn’t come easily.  There were barriers to overcome along the way, and many of them are ongoing obstacles.  Being a woman in the industry was tricky to navigate, and her youth adds another element of challenge.  “I have a lot of experience and training under my belt but it’s sometimes harder to be taken seriously.  I have to stay confident and constantly prove myself.”  Kristi also had to adjust to the fast pace, using that to develop excellent multi-tasking skills. 

But it’s not like Kristi’s work is lacking fun.  She thrives on that challenge to prove herself, she enjoys working with people, and her work offers a great deal of flexibility and variety.  And at the end of the day, it all comes back to creativity, which Kristi ultimately gets to use so that her clients are surrounded by their dream living spaces.  “Seeing the joy on a client’s face as their project comes to fruition is so rewarding.”

Kristi mentored students at the Niagara Networking Dinner on Thursday, November 18th.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

“Skills Work!® for Women” – Vanessa Hawkins, Tool & Tooling Maker/Machinist

Plenty of girls look up to their big brothers, but Vanessa Hawkins can credit hers with introducing her to a career that she is now passionate about.  “I knew I didn’t want to sit behind a desk all day and I knew I wanted to make good money.”  Having tried one high school machining class, Vanessa accompanied her brother to Centennial College to check out the campus.  Once she heard the instructors talking about machining and tool and die making, she was hooked.

Currently working for Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), Vanessa recently completed her four-year apprenticeship after completing the two-year Tool & Die program at Centennial, as well as a semester of CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining.  On a daily basis, Vanessa makes a variety of parts from a variety of materials – including plastics (Teflon, acrylic, peek, delrin) and metals (zirc, aluminum, stainless steel, brass, copper, uranium).  She sets up and operates a vast array of machinery and equipment such as CNC/Wire/design programs, lathes, mills, drill presses and band saws.

Vanessa considers finishing her apprenticeship and passing all the exams to be her biggest accomplishment, and it’s no surprise.  Aside from the time and effort dedicated to the training, tooling is a skilled trade that demands patience and perfection.  “Some parts take hundreds of hours and have to be perfect to within 0.0003 inches.”  Anything less can result in thousands of dollars lost to the company.

Despite the challenges, Vanessa absolutely loves her work.  It gives her freedom and security, and allows her to use her mind to solve problems, and her hands to design and build.  She can even branch into other related trades fairly easily.  “You’ll always be able to find a job or even start your own business.  Skilled trades pay well and you get to have something to show for it at the end of the day.  You can work anywhere.  What’s not to love?”

Vanessa mentored students from the Renfrew County area at the first-ever Pembroke Networking Dinner on November 16th.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Skills Work!® On The Road – Peterborough

A few weeks ago I headed south on Highway 28 to Cobourg.  Now, driving is not unusual for me or my fellow Liaison Officers.  Neither is visiting a high school to deliver a presentation.  The difference in this case is that Brookside Secondary School is in a correctional facility for male young offenders.  Hey, it’s not every day that I get to go to a prison.

I first went to Brookside about 5 years ago and have been back every year since.  To deliver the presentation, I am set up in a classroom with between two and four students and then sent out via video feed to the 150 or so students across the campus.  As someone who has presented to over 400 students at a time, two students is a nice change.  After the presentation students are invited to call in to ask questions by phone. 

The unique nature of this school is not what keeps me coming back year after year, it is the people.  The teachers and staff at Brookside work in a very tough environment, yet they always seem to smile.  They go above and beyond to reach out and help some of the most difficult students achieve their goals and offer them a wide variety of specialised programs in fields like masonry, culinary arts, furniture refinishing and graphic design.

This year one of the young men who was in the classroom with me spoke to me after the presentation.  He said that he is on his way to becoming an apprentice electrician.  He had already contacted his uncle about a placement and had downloaded the forms from the MTCU.  He was close to completing his high school diploma and his time at Brookside.  He told me that he had learned a lot while he was there, but he definitely wasn’t going to come back. 

Because of students like him, I will.

William Howe
Liaison Officer

See where our Liaison team has been - visit our map here!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Skills Are Recognized

Name:  Jonathan Sinke
Hometown:  Jordan Station, Ontario
Contest Area:  Cabinetmaking

Being a world-class competitor will earn you many things.  Like the opportunity to represent your country at the World Skills Competition, knowledge, and, of course, new skills!

Another benefit of being one of the best in the world in a skilled trade is the recognition that comes from this prestigious honour.

Jonathan Sinke, a third year Cabinetmaking apprentice and student at Conestoga College, feels that winning gold at both the Ontario Technological Skills Competition and Canadian Skills Competition has gained him recognition within his community which will help him when he starts his own business.  “When potential clients see that I have won these skills competitions and what I have accomplished, even though I am young and don’t have 25 years of experience under my belt, it should help me to gain their confidence and trust.”

At Conestoga College, Jonathan is learning all the theoretical knowledge that comes along with the trade, in addition to hands-on training in the workshop which is equipped with all of the latest machinery.  “This is great because many of us who work in smaller shops would not get the opportunity to work with some of the production machines, except through school.”  After graduation Jonathan plans to write the Red Seal Exam which would certify him as a Cabinetmaker, and is recognized throughout North America.

In preparation for the World Skills Competition Jonathan has been training at night and on weekends while working fulltime and also attending a night course in small business studies.  He is very excited to see the top young trades from all around the world.  “I am sure each nation has their own way of doing things, but we will all be brought together working on the same project with the same desire to do our best.”

Jonathan says there are good job opportunities in Cabinetmaking and that there will be even more in the future.  “Many of the competent tradesmen are now getting older and starting to retire and there are not enough young people with the skills needed to fill the gap.”  If you’re a young person thinking about a career in the skilled trades and technologies Jonathan’s advice is to definitely pursue a skilled trade because your skills will be in demand in the future!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Grace Under Pressure

Name:  Adrian Schut & Benjamin Church
Hometown:  Almonte, Ontario
Contest Area:  Mobile Robotics

How many Grade 11 students from Almonte, Ontario can you think of that will be travelling across the Atlantic to compete against the best the world has to offer?  We know two.

Adrian Schut and Benjamin Church are two of 35 young people that will be representing Canada at the 2011 World Skills Competition.  To get there they won Gold at both the Ontario Technological Skills Competition and the Canadian Skills Competition.

The Mobile Robotics contest involves knowledge of fundamental principles, automation and electrical/electronic technologies.  Using that knowledge, the competitors are required to construct and program a robot to undertake a variety of tasks.  Success in this contest requires a lot of practice and confidence.  To ensure they are ready for the challenge, Adrian and Benjamin have been spending up to 3 hours training every day.  They anticipate on increasing that to 5 – 8 hours a day as the competition comes closer.

After all the hard work to prepare for the World Skills Competition, and experience gained from the OTSC and CSC, they are confident in their abilities to perform on the world stage.  “The Ontario Technological Skills Competition has given me the confidence to perform under pressure and in a timed environment,” says Adrian.  “This will also help me in any career I pursue.”  Benjamin adds that through the OTSC he has become comfortable performing in front of an audience and gained experience competing as part of a team.

Although both have different career interests after high school, they are unified in one thing.  The advice they would give to other young people considering becoming involved in Skills Canada – Ontario’s programs is to give it a try.  “The OTSC is an awesome way to experience the thrill of the trades.”

Monday, November 8, 2010

Opening Doors for Future Career Choices

Name:  Tyler Hackney
Hometown:  Cambridge, Ontario
Contest Area:  CNC Turning

Students that participate in Skills Canada – Ontario’s programs each have their own unique experience.  Tyler Hackney, a Gold Medalist at both the Ontario Technological Skills Competition (OTSC) and Canadian Skills Competition (CSC) in 2010, used his experience to open doors for future career opportunities.

A graduate of Fanshawe College’s Manufacturing Engineering Technology program, Tyler has used his education to prepare for his career and the OTSC.  “Before I enrolled in this program I knew very little about CNC machining.”

Tyler is employed as a Quality Measuring Technician.  Many of the skills he learned in school and from his experience at the OTSC and CSC he now uses in his job.  “I’m responsible for performing quality checks on the parts going out of the plant.  I also check the pre-made parts coming into the plant from other suppliers and read blueprints to ensure that all of the parts are made correctly.”

Skills Canada – Ontario’s programs provide the stage and opportunity for students to achieve success and realize their full potential.  “For me the Ontario Technological Skills Competition opened the doors for other career opportunities that may come from competing at the World Skills Competition.  That is very exciting.”

Training for the World Skills Competition requires a lot of dedication.  Tyler has been preparing by working with the computer software that he will be using in the CNC Turning contest. “After a few months of practice with the software I will start to work hands-on with the machine and running off parts.”

Tyler feels that there are a lot of great job opportunities in his field.  His advice to other young people considering a career in the skilled trades and technologies is to take as much schooling as you can.  “I will always be looking for opportunities to learn and grow in my career so I can advance my skills and earn more money.”

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Love What You Do!

Name:  Tom Middlebro'
Hometown:  Guelph, Ontario
Contest:  Offset Printing

The equation for a successful career is one part perspiration, one part passion.  There couldn't be a better description for Tom Middelbro', Canada’s representative in Offset Printing at the 2011 World Skills Competition.

A graduate of the Graphic Design Production – Digital program at Mohawk College, Tom, has learned lots about pre-press and how to make designs that will be practical for the application where they will be used.  Now that he has finished school he has one goal in mind:  win Gold at the World Skills Competition in 2011.

“As a kid watching the Olympics on TV, or any sort of world competition for that matter, I always wished that someday I could represent the country that I love, as well as make something of myself on the world stage,” says Tom.  “Not many people get to do that, and I think it is an amazing opportunity that I will never forget.”

Tom credits the Ontario Technological Skills Competition with helping him prepare for his career.  “It was a great chance for me to continue doing what I had found that I loved doing, which was printing. When I entered this competition and was given the chance to further develop my skills on the press I was very excited.  When I won the Canadian Skills Competition and qualified for Team Canada, I was ecstatic because I was given the chance to become one of the best press operators in the country, and possibly the world. If it wasn't for that first competition, I would likely have never touched a printing press again, and for the chance that competition gave me, I am grateful.”

As for career choice, Tom feels that a perfect storm is brewing.  “The print industry is going through a huge change at the moment. Companies are switching from offset printing methods to digital printing, but this is the perfect opportunity for me to get into the printing world and learn the new technologies.” 

His advice for other students a career in the skilled trades and technologies is quite simple.  GO FOR IT!

“We need skilled tradespeople. I remember being in high school and not thinking of the skilled trades as a career option, but once I got to see how amazingly skilled these people are, combined with the demand for people of this calibre, I realized how fun and important these trades are.” 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

No Limits

Name:  Ryan Gomes
Hometown:  Cambridge, Ontario

Pearson International Airport is one of the world’s busiest airports – 19th actually.  Over 30 million passengers and 400,000 airplanes move through the airport each year. 

To carry all those passengers safely to their destination requires that the planes be maintained by qualified professionals.  Talk about pressure.

Ryan Gomes will be representing Canada at the World Skills Competition.  He says the Ontario Technological Skills Competition and the Canadian Skills Competition taught him how to work under pressure. “The competition is a fun and exciting experience, and at the same time can be stressful for a first time competitor because everyone wants to do their best.”  Ryan also said that after being expected to perform your best while surrounded by spectators and then having your work thoroughly judged at the competition, it is easy to go to work and be confident and work your hardest and best. “The competitions not only help you become better at your trade, by the careful examination and advice afterwards from the experts, but it helps you become a better trades person in general by applying a bit of pressure to you, and letting you perform your best.”

To learn his trade, Ryan attended Centennial College’s School of Transportation.  This program taught him all the basics skills to become an Aircraft Maintenance Technician and perform his job with confidence. “I know that the aircraft I work on will conform to the standards of airworthiness.”

Ryan currently works for an Approved Maintenance Organization where he is working towards his Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) Licence. After he obtains his licence his options are wide open.  “I have always wanted to be in charge of my own career, in charge of make my own decisions.”  Those decisions might include starting a small aircraft maintenance company, possibly working for Transport Canada, or being a teacher.

Currently Ryan is also busy preparing for the World Skills Competition which will be an intensive year long training program.  “I really want to prove to the world and myself, that I am the best that Canada has to offer, and there is no reason that I cannot be the best. It isn't out of my grasp, I just need to make sure I put the hard work and dedication that I have like everything that I do.”

Aircraft Maintenance is a field that has limitless job opportunities. As an AME, there are very many opportunities to travel the world, and work on planes in remote areas. “There are no limits to how much you can do in aviation, except for you telling yourself that you can't.”  Ryan’s message to other young people is that the skilled trades are an excellent career choice, whether you decide to be an aircraft maintenance engineer, or any other of the great skilled trades Canada has to offer. “Students should really consider skilled trades if they like working with their hands, their head, and like a great paying, rewarding career.”

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Skills Work!® for Women – Toni Jones, Welder

One day, not long after getting her welding ticket, Toni Jones visited a trailer park on a contract job to make some repairs.  As she got to work, Toni noticed an elderly woman watching her.   By the end of the job, Toni had an audience of four little old ladies, sitting on the first woman’s porch, watching her.  They beckoned her over to tell her how impressive it was to see a woman do the same job as a man; that it made their efforts for women’s rights well worth it.  More than any other moment, that’s when Toni felt the pride of being a welder.

Even though Toni welded all the time on her family’s farm growing up, she did not obtain her Certificate of Qualification until three years ago.  A single mother who received no child support, Toni found job security to be elusive.  Hobart was the first company to take a chance on me, and I’m so incredibly grateful to them for giving me that opportunity.  I make a good living, and my son and I are comfortable.”

 Toni acknowledges that there are ongoing challenges for a woman in the trades.  “I encountered more than a few men that refused to let a woman weld in their shop.  Women are only 3% of the skilled trade workforce.  I always tell young women that they have to have broad shoulders and be prepared to play with the boys if they want to go into a trade.”  Hobart has given Toni many opportunities to advance and to get more training and experience, of which she has eagerly taken advantage.

For the last year, Toni has been teaching welding at Georgian College.  She started as a volunteer, and when a paid position opened up, the college was thrilled to hire its first female welding instructor.  Toni has since been to a number of courses and seminars to help develop her teaching skills.   Although she’s still waiting for her first female student, Toni loves teaching and would like to continue down that path and expand her abilities as an instructor. “I feel like I’m creating a platform for acceptance.”

For several years, Toni has volunteered her time as a mentor in Skills Canada – Ontario’s Networking Dinner for Women program.  “I was never that girl who got perfect grades or who could write the 2500-word essay.  I’m not a book person.  I can be articulate, but I like to play in the dirt.  I’ve made mistakes and taken some wrong turns, but now I have this skill that has brought me so much.” 

Toni will be mentoring once again this year, at the Port Elgin Networking Dinner on November 4.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Skills Work!® for Women – Devon MacKinnon, Special Event Coordinator

Having a baby at a young age is guaranteed to be a challenging experience.  For Devon MacKinnon, the added challenge was her lack of training beyond high school.  She loved her job at the pharmacy where she worked, but she recognized how limited her options were – the most significant being that she faced seven years of university education if she wanted to become a pharmacist.  Being very young, with a child to support, Devon had to weigh her career options carefully, and look toward a long-term career solution.  She quit her job at the pharmacy and turned to a career area she was interested in: event coordination.

In her current role is as Project Coordinator for the Northwest Training and Adjustment Board, Devon works in partnership with area high schools to help increase co-op opportunities for students, and also promotes the Ministry of Education’s Specialist High Skills Major program.  Her job is multi-faceted, involving advertising and marketing, travelling, networking at career fairs and trade shows, and even some graphic and web design.  She cites the most important skills for her job as organizational ability, good people skills, great budgeting skills and “big picture” thinking combined with attention to detail.

Outside of her regular job, Devon has also been contracted to coordinate events for other organizations, which has come with a veritable laundry list of benefits.  “Work isn’t boring when you have different projects all the time, I meet so many new people, and I get to be creative through designing posters and websites.”  The additional income and the opportunity to work from home on these additional projects allow Devon to achieve a great work-life balance.  She has recently been profiled as a success story both by the Ministry of Mining and Northern Development’s Youth Connect North, and by

What would Devon like to be doing in five years?  I would eventually like to own my own business or continuing consulting.  I’m still of that age where I am eligible for government grants for young entrepreneurs.  I really do believe in the abilities of youth and would like to work with them directly someday.”

Devon is a returning mentor, and will be attending the Kenora Networking Dinner on November 2, 2010.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Skills Work!® Celebrating Skilled Trade and Technological Careers

Welcome, my name is Brian Mullen.  I am excited to have been selected as the next Chair of the Board of Directors for Skills Canada – Ontario.  These continue to be very exciting times for our organization.  I would like to thank Gary Cronkwright for the leadership he provided to the Board over the past two years.  I would also like to thank our Executive Director, Gail Smyth and her remarkable team for their hard work and dedication to the thousands of young people we serve each year. 
Next week, November 1 – 5, is National Skilled Trades and Technology Week.  During this week we will introduce you to six young people from Ontario who will represent Canada at the 2011 World Skills Competition being held in London, UK.  We will include photos from Skills At The Park, an event being held to celebrate the accomplishments of these six competitors before they take stage at the international competition.  The Hon. John Milloy, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, and the Hon. Leona Dombrowsky, the Minister of Education, will be speaking at this event.
National Skilled Trades and Technology Week is also an opportunity to recognize the importance of these career choices.  I would like to share with you some very inspiring comments from a conversation one of our staff had with Peter Sweeney, President of St. Joseph’s International Outreach Program (IOP).  From Haiti to Uganda to Yemen, the IOP has partnered with developing countries since 1986 to provide training in current medical and nursing techniques, transport basic medical supplies, and make donated equipment operational.  Read their blog here.
Peter was part of an envoy that recently travelled to Haiti to continue their partnership with the Haitian Ministry of Health to support two world-class hospitals and provide care to people whose lives have been forever changed following the earthquake that rocked the nation.
When asked about the team of professionals that would be assisting in this particular trip, Peter explained that there would be several healthcare specialists, including doctors and nurses.  After a brief pause, he said “But you know what, they simply cannot deliver care in a building that is not functional or without proper, working equipment.   It takes the efforts of many engineers, skilled tradespeople and technologists on our team to provide those health care workers with the facilities and equipment they need in order to make a difference.”
There are probably hundreds of similar stories from the rescue missions following that devastating earthquake.  And each story illustrates the importance and need for qualified skilled workers not only in Canada, but around the world. 
At home we need to ensure that there is enough talent available so our partners from industry can grow their businesses in a very competitive global market.  The call to action is for all of us to celebrate the success of the talented young people, like the team we’ll introduce to you soon, who have made a very important career choice.  Who knows where their skill will take them?
Our team will continue its mission to inform thousands of students throughout the province of Ontario each year about careers in the skilled trades and technologies through our innovative programs.  Please visit our website to learn more about these programs.  We also have a collection of interesting stats and facts about skilled trade and technological careers available on our Facebook page.
If you have a story to share with us, our team would love to hear from you.  Send your stories here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Skills Work!® On The Road - Woodbridge Office

September is always the busiest time of year for the Liaison staff at Skills Canada – Ontario.  About two weeks after school starts, the floodgates open, and requests for in-school presentations come pouring in.   Add a busy season of Networking Dinners for Women, and fall zooms by as quickly as the lines painted on the 401!

I’m now entering my fifth year delivering presentations about careers in the trades and technologies to students in Grades 7 to 12.  I love it.  The presentation changes only on an annual basis, but the kids are always different.  The schools are always different.  And like anyone in my position would have done, I’ve acquired favourites.

I visited one of these favourite schools last week – the Oasis Skateboard Factory.  The program is part of the Toronto District School Board’s Oasis Alternative Secondary School and housed at the Scadding Court Community Centre at Bathurst and Dundas in Toronto.  Designed for TDSB students who are 16 and over and classified as “at risk,” the program finds students designing, creating and marketing their own skateboard. 

The designs are original student creations, from the paper sketch all the way to the painted wood product.  In past, students have even obtained partnerships with community businesses to help fund their projects. By the end of the program, students are ready to market and sell their skateboards to the community.  Aside from the life skills obtained, the students earn high school credits in arts/media, business and English. 

You can define these kids as “at risk” in as many ways as you like, but one glance in that classroom and you see the talent, intelligence, artistry and entrepreneurial spirit.  They’ve regained a passion for life and learning, they love what they are doing and they realize very quickly how passion translates into a good living. 

In short, they’re the perfect audience for a presentation about careers in trades and technologies.  They were fascinated and engaged.  I spent over an hour with them on a 45-minute presentation.  Give them a few years, and these kids will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Devon Turcotte
Lead Liaison Officer
Social Media Coordinator

Information on the Oasis Skateboard Factory:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ms. Skills - From The Executive Director

Skills Work!®  

For over 20 years Skills Canada-Ontario has been the voice delivering the message to young people across the province that skilled trade and technological careers really do work.

Our mission, to promote careers in the skilled trades and technologies as viable, first choice career options, is driven by two economic terms that ultimately shape our workforce – supply and demand. 

On the demand side, there is plenty of research telling us that there is a need for workers in all sectors that we promote, including construction, motive power, service, industrial and technology.  On the supply side, we know that young people are not choosing skilled trades and technologies careers, which will leave a skill gap as a result of an ageing workforce.

The challenge for our organization is that careers in the skilled trades and technologies are perceived to be boring, dirty and low-paying.  To overcome these myths and misconceptions, our team continues to design and deliver programs that provide young people with the opportunity to experience first-hand the joy and reward that can come from pursuing a skilled trade or technological career.

The cornerstone of our programs is the Ontario Technological Skills Competition.  This three-day event showcases the talent and passion of the students that compete in more than 60 skilled trade and technology contest areas.

For the other 362 days of the year our team is actively travelling across province igniting the minds of young people through our other, yet equally important, programs. 

The in-school presentation program continues to reach thousands of students in both elementary and secondary schools that are affiliated with Skills Canada – Ontario.  Many more young women are considering a career in the skilled trades and technologies as a result of our “Skills Work!® for Women” Networking Dinner program and our Young Women’s Conferences.  Our Cardboard Boat Races continue to make a big splash in each community we visit.

Our newest initiative is a social media campaign.  The goals of this campaign are to increase the number of people we reach each year, enhance our audiences’ understanding of our mission and award-winning programming, and finally, to further position Skills Canada - Ontario as the voice for careers in the skilled trades and technologies. 

As the Executive Director of this incredible organization I would like to issue two challenges to those who will be following us on this blog and the other social media tools we have created.

The first is to consider how skilled trades and technologies impact your life each day.  I am sure that each of you will be able to come up with several examples of how critical these careers are in both our personal and professional environments.

The second challenge is to encourage you to become engaged in our social media campaign.  Comment on our blog.  Retweet our tweets.  Follow us on Facebook.  And finally, recommend us to a young person, parent, educator, or someone in your personal network that may benefit from being involved with Skills Canada – Ontario.

Skills Work!®  Let us show you how.
Gail Smyth