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.