Monday, December 12, 2011

Skills Work!® for Women – Anne Giardini, Red Seal General Machinist


In the mid-1990s, many companies were downsizing and employees in a variety of jobs and sectors were panicking over job security.  This economic climate entered into Anne Giardini’s life in 1995, when she was an administrative assistant at Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL).  Instead of waiting to be downsized, Anne entered a tool & die apprenticeship within the organization.  And with a what-have-I-got-to-lose attitude, Anne’s career path took a sharp 90-degree turn.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Once she was certified as a General Machinist, Anne was promoted to Project Leader after only five years on the shop floor.  In addition to her machining duties, that makes Anne also responsible for project assessment, ordering materials and meeting inspection requirements.  One of her current projects at AECL involves manufacturing control rod magnet assembles for the research reactor.   The project involves creating and overseeing work from her own shop, as well as work contracted out to four other shops. 

Anne was fortunate to enter the trades when she did.  For one thing, she found that even once she was certified in her trade, having a clerical background with computer experience was extremely helpful.  For another, she found that having some career experience enabled her to have a more positive attitude.  “I knew that I would get resistance from some of the guys, but since I started my career later in life, my maturity and life experiences were a definite asset.”  Still today, Anne loves her work for its variety and hands-on nature.

It’s difficult to find someone with more enthusiasm about women in skilled trades than Anne.  She has been a dedicated mentor at the “Skills Work!® for Women” Networking Dinners and Young Women’s Conferences for several years.  She is also an active member of Women in Nuclear, a global organization that connects women working within the nuclear power field.  Her role as Deputy Mayor for the Town of Laurentian Hills probably doesn’t hurt her efforts either!

Anne’s basic message to young women boils down to this:  “It is definitely a good career option.  The money is good and many times you get to be your own boss.  There is a great network of women who will give support, so take advantage of it.”

Anne was a mentor at the November 16th “Skills Work!® for Women” Networking Dinner in Pembroke.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Skills Work!® On The Road – Far North Region


Promoting skilled trades and inspiring young women

Welders and hairstylists and structural technicians, oh my!  These were just some of the amazing careers that were represented by women at the 2011-2012 “Skills Work!® for Women” Networking Dinner in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Young women came from as far away as Marathon (3 hours away) to join in an evening of mingling, laughing, learning and sharing with other students and with women who work in the skilled trades and technologies.

Let me first back up a couple of years and tell you about my first encounter with the “Skills Work!® for Women” Networking Dinner.  In 2008, a friend had told me about this wonderful event where I could come out and represent women who work within the Technology sector (an area I was currently working in and had been for about 5 years).  I jumped at the chance to be able to share my stories, knowledge and maybe even change one young woman’s life.  The thought that I had the power to help build confidence in young women was something I always strived for, and continue to, to this day.  All young women need to know that anything they want is within their reach and to never let gender barriers affect who they are and who they want to become.

Now, fast forward to 2011 where, after 2 years of being a mentor to young women at the “Skills Work!® for Women” Networking Dinner, I am now facilitating them as a member of the Skills Canada-Ontario staff.

The most recent Networking Dinner I facilitated was in Thunder Bay on November 17th.  It has been different working outside of the mentor role at these events, but it is still equally as invigorating to know the difference that I am able to make to these young women by bringing them together with so many other wonderful mentors from our community.  Having spent those couple of years as a mentor, I was all the more eager to find any and all women who work within the skilled trades and technology industries, because I know firsthand, the amazing affect it can have on the young women and how valuable this experience is for everyone involved.

With a fantastic group of young women from the area and excited and dynamic mentors from throughout Thunder Bay the event was a wonderful success.  Women from all sectors; industrial, construction, motive power, service and technology were all very well represented.  This gave the young women a rare, firsthand opportunity to hear the stories of these women and find out what life truly is like for them in their non-traditional roles.

The event was filled with empowerment and inspiration.  The best word for this event is “special.”  It was truly special and so enlightening to watch these young women have an event to feel and realize that THEY are special and they really can achieve anything they want.  The girls left with new friends, a newfound confidence and lasting memories.  I am so grateful that we at Skills Canada – Ontario are able to help these young women realize their potential and see the world in a different light.

Jessica Murphy, Liaison Officer
Far North Region

Monday, November 28, 2011

Skills Work!® for Women – Amanda Young, Electrician


Electrical work is hard.  There’s a lot of math and physics involved, the work can be quite physically demanding, and travel for work can be extensive.  But if you talk to Amanda Young, you’ll find that what can be the most challenging is working with so many different people.  Whether in a classroom or on a job site, the group dynamics are something that must be managed.  However, especially that she’s now teaching her trade, Amanda finds that the people are also the most enjoyable part of her job.

After trying floristry and early childhood education, Amanda’s desire for a higher income turned her attention to becoming an electrician.  After starting as a labourer, and then going through her electrical apprenticeship, she’s now had her ticket for about 10 years.  She’s worked on a variety of jobs over the years, even taking her to the oil sands in Alberta.

“It was amazing.  We were in an isolated area, but there were 2000 people working in the camp.  Hundreds of buses were transporting people back and forth all the time, all different shifts and all different trades.  And there were 6 camps like this.”  She also enjoyed getting to use tools and machinery that she never would otherwise have seen, and to travel to places she may not have visited.  For free, no less!

In recent years, Amanda has turned more toward teaching.  Over the past six years, she has taught intermittently at Georgian College, and now she is the Lead Teacher for the Electrical Techniques program at Georgian.  Not only is she responsible for her own classes, but three other teachers report to her, plus she has the responsibility of looking after program needs such as tools, materials, textbooks and curricula.  Amanda’s passion for teaching has provided her with a number of other opportunities to speak to youth about her career, including through the YMCA, WIST (Women in Skilled Trades) and Women on Words.

The most important thing to remember going into an apprenticeship is that it can be demanding.  You don’t always get to do what you want, but you need to learn what you can, and stick it out until you get to the point where you can pick and choose your jobs.  Math skills are important, and you need to be versatile.

Particularly for young women, Amanda's advice is this:  “be prepared for obstacles, and bring a positive attitude.  It’s easy to get dragged down by others’ attitudes and behaviours.  Try to look at your workmates as people, not just a bunch of guys.  If you have confidence in yourself, the people you work with will reflect that.”

Amanda was a mentor at this year’s “Skills Work!® for Women” Networking Dinner in Barrie on November 15, 2011.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Skills Work!® What’s Out There?

Sheet Metal Workers

Normally, when people think of construction careers, the first to come to mind are carpenter, plumber or electrician. Construction is the largest sector in the skilled trades, so there are plenty of reasons to look around and see what other options exist!

For this installment of our career profile series, we’ll be looking at Sheet Metal Workers. The basic definition of this job is to shear, form, fabricate, weld, solder and assemble a host of items made from galvanized iron, sheetsteel, copper, nickel alloy, stainless steel, aluminum, plastics and ceramics. The most commonly recognized sheet metal work is roof decking, eavestroughs and ducting/ventilation systems.  Once upon a time, sheet metal workers were known as tinsmiths.  Just think of the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz and you get the idea!

Sheet metal workers also perform these duties:
  • Read engineering and architectural drawings and sketches of work to be performed
  • Lay out, measure and mark sheet metal according to drawings or templates
  • Develop patterns for sheet metal using computer-assisted design and drafting (CADD) software package
  • Operate light metal-working machines such as shears, brakes, punches and drill presses to cut, bend, punch, drill, shape or straighten sheet metal
  • Operate computerized laser or plasma-cutting equipment to cut sheet metal
  • Fit and join sheet metal parts using riveter, welding, soldering and similar equipment
  • Install sheet metal products according to specifications and building codes
  • Grind and buff seams, joints and rough surfaces
  • Inspect product quality and installation to ensure conformance to specifications

Workplaces/Employers

Primary steel producers, aircraft and parts manufacturers, building construction companies

Salary Range
$12 - $37 per hour, approximately $25,000 - $76,900 per year
(Remember, average salaries include apprenticeship wages, and are exclusive of vacation pay, overtime pay and health benefits.)

Education Required
9000 apprenticeship hours (approximately 4-5 years)
OR
College – check out www.ontariocolleges.ca to search options!

Helpful Skills
  • Aptitude for science and math
  • Interest in computers and technology
  • Comfortable working in a variety of environments
  • Able to read and interpret technical drawings
Contact your local or regional branch of the Sheet Metal Workers and Roofers Union for more information.


Career Management Tip - Resume Components

When you’re writing your resume it’s important to be aware of what the reader will want to see.

Answering these questions will help you focus during the resume writing process.
  • For whom are you writing this document? Who is your target audience? 
  • What competencies need to be highlighted? What do you do better than those in the same position? 
  • What have you done that demonstrates those competencies and differentiators? 
  • Why, how and what were the results and/or benefits of your activities? Quantifying and qualifying your accomplishments is important. 
  • What is the best resume format to capture and present this information? 

Must-Have Resume Components
Regardless of style or format, resumes tend to contain similar components, depending on your defined target.
  • Vital Statistics – Every resume should include your name, address, phone number, and email. If it’s relevant to the position you are applying to, you may also want to include your online portfolio, blog, or LinkedIn URL. 
  • Profile or Career Summary – A thumbnail sketch of who you are and what you have done with specific competencies you want to take forward or that are particularly marketable. 
  • Business Experience – This includes the company’s name, and possibly a brief description, or scope statement of what that company does, years employed, job titles and dates of employment. 
  • Scope of Responsibility Statements – Put these under each job title. It can include reporting structure, the functional areas you supported and budget size or revenue you oversaw. 
  • Accomplishment Statements – Specific examples of what you have done and the associated results and benefits. 
  • Education and Professional Development – Include both your formal education and other courses, seminars and workshops that are relevant to your target market. List this information in reverse chronological order, but be selective as to the ones that are included. You should include items that will add value to your resume. 
In our next career management tip we will focus on writing a GREAT resume profile. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Skills Work!® for Women – Kayne Shaw, Landscaper


To borrow a phrase, Kayne Shaw is a classic “Jackie of all trades.”  Some of the jobs contained within her job as a Landscaper are Density Technician, Field Testing Technician, Heavy Equipment Operator and Truck Driver.  Not to mention she’s a Health and Safety representative at Darryl’s Custom Landscapes.  Oh, and she’s a part-time Firefighter for the Town of Fort Frances.  No big deal.

Having worked in the field for nine years, Kayne has asserted herself time and again on the job.  She cites the most important skill for her work as integrity.  Much of what she does involves materials testing, which requires a high degree of work ethic and an unbiased view of the work itself.  What also helps?  Curiosity, and a willingness to develop new skills.  With so many bases to cover, it’s not a surprise that she thinks so!  Her own educational background encompassed some university, but is mainly comprised of “short-course” training in various aspects of her job, such as Concrete Field Testing.

Kayne’s favourite part of the job is the variety involved.  No two days are the same.  She encountered big attitudes from others who didn’t know her and didn’t know her work ethic, but she has proven her skill over and over, and leaves no doubt in others’ minds about her abilities right alongside men’s abilities. Her proudest accomplishment is earning the respect of her peers in industry.

Although Kayne did not actively pursue a career in the skilled trades, she seems to have landed in the right place.  “I believe I have ended up where I am due to varied circumstances.  I love what I do and have no intention of changing careers.”  Her advice to any young women exploring careers?

“Get a degree or certificate in a field that you find interesting. Try new things as often as you can. Listen to those with experience and ask questions.”

Kayne was a mentor at the recent "Skills Work!® for Women" Networking Dinner in Fort Frances, Ontario.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Skills Work®! On The Road – Southwestern Ontario Region


Well we’ve made it through this hectic year to the end of October already – and yet I'm still writing 2010 on all my paperwork.  It’s like this year has gone by so fast it didn’t even happen; and yet at the same time, so much has happened.

We’ve had an amazing start to the 2011/12 school year, with our 10 liaison staff members already having booked and presented to almost 200 schools in the months of September and October alone!

Personally, I have spent the last two weeks visiting the schools in the Simcoe County District School Board, in and around the Barrie area.  And what an incredible two weeks it has been!  I’ve enjoyed so much of it,  the enthusiasm shown by the students and teachers to the beautiful colours of fall that I saw on my everyday drives.  Some mornings I was up early enough to catch the sun rising over Lake Simcoe – a truly beautiful sight.

One of my more memorable presentations of these past two weeks was at Midland Secondary School, which is about a 3 hour drive from where I live in Kitchener.  Last year I had tried to get to Midland Secondary School twice, and both times had to cancel due to snow storms – and one of those times was even in March!  This year we decided to try October and crossed our fingers that there would not be a white-out blizzard on the morning of the 13th.  We were in luck – I had a fabulous drive into Midland and was able to speak to all the grade 11 & 12 students in their school.  They were a big group, but were all really interested and very interactive during the presentation.  I had many questions and comments from students and even had two students come up after the presentation to talk to me,and the OYAP Coordinator who booked the presentation.  They were really interested in knowing how they could get started in their apprenticeships in grade 12 through OYAP(the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program) in their school.  When we finished talking they were both headed for the guidance office to start the process of switching into a CO-OP/OYAP course for the next school year.

It’s days like those that make us realize that we are actually making a difference in the presentations we give.  From giving the students the information they need to take that next step of getting involved in an apprenticeship, to connecting them opportunities in their schools, we are all contributing to the success of today’s students in the skilled trades.  And seeing a student’s face light up when they are shown the hands-on education they can receive though an apprenticeship, as well as the many benefits the skilled trades provide is always the highlight of my day.  I'm sure that will never get old.

Brieanna Holm
Liaison Officer

Monday, October 24, 2011

A CUT ABOVE

Lina Shamoun – Owner & Head Stylist, Artline Salon

Lina Shamoun is an award-winning hairstylist, entrepreneur, mentor and community leader. She is also a very proud alumnus of Skills Canada – Ontario (SCO), earning three consecutive Gold Medals in the Hairstyling contest at the Ontario Technological Skills Competition (OTSC). Lina also represented Ontario at the National Skills Competition, earning a Gold medal in 2003 and a Bronze in 2004. (Click here for a complete list of all her accomplishments.)

Her pathway to success started almost unknowingly. Four years after she had immigrated to Canada she was sitting in her Cosmetology class at St. Mary’s High School in Kitchener when her teacher asked the class who would like to compete at upcoming the OTSC. Lina immediately raised her hand.

At the time she was still learning the English language and wasn’t really sure what the word “compete” meant, or what the OTSC was. However, after it was explained to her she was ready and willing for the challenge.

That moment was the spark for Lina that ignited an extreme passion for the fascinating world of competitive hairstyling and a very successful career.

Lina is now the owner of Artline Salon, a business she started in 2007. She has 6 full-time employees and is currently training her third apprentice. Her business has had considerable growth over the past four years to the point that she will now be moving to a larger facility.

We sat down with Lina to ask her a few questions about her career.


SCO: How did your experience with Skills Canada - Ontario help you in making your career choice?

LS: My first opportunity to compete at the OTSC was what made me really want to pursue a career in hairstyling. The experience gave me the drive and ambition to take my career to the next level and be the best in my field. That is why I continue to compete internationally as well as train the new talent at Artline and help them grow, compete and achieve significant results.


SCO: What continues to motivate you?

LS: Being able to train young individuals and anyone willing to grow. I was given so much support early in my career and I feel it’s important to give back. I want to be able to help others realize their dreams, just as I have been able to.


SCO: What about your career makes you happy?

LS: I love what I do and am excited to come to work every day and work with a great team. I also like that I am still able to challenge myself and learn new skills by competing in contests around the world and attending international conferences, seminars and shows.


SCO: How do you define success?

LS: There is a quote that I once read that says, “Preparation meeting opportunity equals success.” That is how I approach all areas of my life.


SCO: What are your future goals?

LS: I would like to establish a Hairstyling Academy. There is a very high dropout rate in our industry. I believe that if young stylists are better prepared for the challenges we can ensure that they go on to have very successful careers.


SCO: What three pieces of advice would you give to students considering a career in the skilled trades?

LS: First would be to learn as much as you can about the trade. The programs offered by SCO are a great start. Secondly, find a mentor. It is important to have someone who you can train you. Finally, see what opportunities are out there. Job shadow someone first so you know that the career choice is the right fit for you. Network with people in the industry so you educate yourself on what future career opportunities may be available.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Skills Work!® What’s Out There?

We’re going to kick off our career profile series by taking a look at Electronic Service Technicians. In July 2010, the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities reported that the service sector continued to grow throughout the recession, particularly technical and professional services. Electronic Service Technicians are right in the centre of this rise!


Electronic Service Technicians

Have you ever appreciated the clarity of the movie on screen at a movie theatre? Do you like using gadgets, high-tech equipment, control panels and electronic read-out screens? Electronic service technicians keep up with technology. Often they test and repair the latest and greatest computer equipment and electronics that you love to use!


Specific Job Titles
  • Alarm system technician 
  • Electronic service technician supervisor 
  • Audio-video service technician 
  • Computer service technician 
  • Photocopy machine technician 
  • Electronic service technician apprentice 
  • Office equipment service technician
  • Radio and television service technician 
  • Field service technician, electronic products 

Workplaces/Employers
Manufacturing, utilities, armed forces, government, airlines, business services, transportation

Salary Range 
$12 - $30 per hour, approximately $25,000 - $62,400 per year
(Remember, salaries include apprenticeship wages!)

Education Required
College – check out www.ontariocolleges.ca to search options!
OR
8000 apprenticeship hours (approximately 4 years)


Helpful Skills
  • Aptitude for science and math 
  • Interest in computers and technology 
  • Great people and communication skills 

Visit the Electro-Federation Canada Installation Maintenance and Repair (IMR) Sector Council and Trade Association for more info: www.electrofed.com.

Career Management Tips: Resume Development
In the first of our career development tips we will focus on resume development. Your resume is a marketing document. It’s designed to sell you. Before you begin writing, take the time to review your interests, skills and goals. You will develop a long list of skills and experience throughout your career. Taking an inventory will help you determine what information should be included in your resume to achieve your target job.

Your finished resume should accomplish five things:
  • Define a clear focus and generate interest in your services
  • Pinpoint skills, accomplishments, competencies, and results 
  • Project your style and personality 
  • Set you apart from your competition 
  • Compel your audience to find out more about you 
To help, ask yourself questions like:
  • How do you want to be seen? 
  • What skills and experience do you want to highlight? 

More Helpful Resume Writing Hints
  • Resumes are scanned very quickly so it's critical your resume has a defined focus that will generate interest from your target audience.
  • While it’s recommended to have others review and offer opinions on your resume, it's extremely important that you are the author. 
  • The tone of your resume and how it reads should reflect how you would verbally communicate during an interview. 

Take your time. Your resume is a marketing document, and it will take time, thought and effort to develop.
Our next career management tip will include more facts and tips on writing a GREAT resume. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ms Skills - From The Executive Director

Hello Ontario:

This is our last day in London, England.  Last night’s awards ceremony was tremendous.  I am so happy, and proud of Ryan Gomes, Aircraft Maintenance, and Jonathan Sinke, Cabinetmaking, who both earned bronze medals!!!  John also earned the Best of Nation Award for Canada.  They have worked extremely hard for this recognition – congratulations!

Thank you for reading my blog this week and sharing this wonderful experience with me.

Ms. Skills - Gail Smyth
Executive Director

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ms Skills - From The Executive Director

Greetings from England:

Well, I have now officially seen it all! Today I saw three young women and one man who had their designed in the hairdressing competition: one was wearing condoms (and, no, I am not kidding), another was wearing syringes and a third one a tree! The man was wearing a CD player in his hair. Hopefully, these creations don’t become too popular!

I am happy to report that Ben was back competing today. He still doesn’t look too well but good for him for getting back in the game.

Tom Middlebro', Offset Printing, is doing extremely well. I stood with his parents today as he prepared his printing project. I think it was pretty obvious that we were all very proud of him.

Jonathan Sinke, Cabinetmaking, is also doing well. He is well on his way to finishing his project so he should be in good shape for tomorrow (last day of competition).

I love watching Ryan Gomes, Aircraft Maintenance; he is very focused...it’s pretty exciting to watch all of them compete!

The weather has turned cool so Fall has arrived in London, England. We are joining Gary Cronkwright for dinner in a few minutes.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ms. Skills - Gail Smyth
Executive Director

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ms Skills - From the Executive Director

Greetings from London, England, Day 7

Thanks to our new friend, Dr. Jane Lewis, from Cisco Systems Ltd., Ron and I had a very enjoyable “banquet” lunch at the Restaurant Servicing Contest.  Jane was very kind and gave us her tickets so we could join six others for a very memorable meal.  Our server was a very pleasant young woman from New Zealand.

We spent the entire day at the competition site from just after 9:00 a.m. and we just got back to our hotel a few minutes ago at 7:30 p.m.  Today I saw something I never imagined seeing at a skills competition; for the “Have a go” exhibit for refrigeration, students were given the instructions to make a key chain and when they were finished they used their key chain for entry into a small ice rink!

I will be bringing home lots of ideas for our summer camp program and possibly the elementary workshops at this year’s OTSC. 

It was nice to see Mary Wilson from WSIB at the Competition in England.  Mary arrived on Monday and left for home today.  Yesterday I saw Shaun Thorson, Carole Anne Ryan from Newfoundland, Claude Borque from Quebec, and Mark Bramer, the Canadian Expert in Cabinetmaking.  Jonathan Sinke, Cabinetmaking Competitor, was with Mark.  Johnathan’s family had a fundraiser for Jon in August of this year and Jon auctioned off two of his test projects for the London competition.  I was delighted to learn that the table I purchased is the project that they are making here in London.  It will always be a highlight of my London experience.

I stopped by the Mobile Robotic contest to speak briefly to Adrian Schut.  Adrian is to be commended; his co-competitor, Benjamin Church, took sick with the stomach flu in the middle of the night and was unable to participate so Adrian competed alone today.  They were sharing a hotel room but Adrian has been moved to a separate hotel room in the hopes that he won’t catch the bug that Ben has.  Please keep them in your thoughts.    I will be back at the competition site tomorrow morning and will report back again tomorrow night.

Good night for now,

Ms Skills - Gail Smyth
Executive Director

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ms Skills - From the Executive Director

Greetings from London, England, Day 6

I want you to imagine, if you can, a competition site that is three times larger than RIM Park in Waterloo and the host site for the Ontario Technological Skills Competition!  As I walked towards the Excel Centre and host of the 41st World Skills Competition in London, England, I was informed by a guide that this site was 1 km in length and approximately ½ km in width and 1 million square feet – I know that for a fact because my feet are telling me that I walked 1 million square feet today.

All contest sites fit inside the Excel Centre including Gardening and Landscaping.  Today there were thousands of very young people visiting the site; these students were kept entertained because there were many, many hands-on activities for them to try under the caption “Give it a Try”.  I handed out maple sugar candies at the Skills Canada booth – they were a great hit with everyone.  I was pleased to note that the students were also very, very polite and always said please and thank you.

The Ontario students competing at this competition are all doing well; they may be nervous inside but they are all looking very calm, cool and collected.  I am proud to be here to witness their achievements.

It’s been another great day!  I will be back in touch again tomorrow.

Warmest regards,

Ms Skills - Gail Smyth
Executive Director

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ms Skills - From the Executive Director

Greetings from London, England, Day 5

Gary Cronkwright, Past Chair of the Board of Directors, arrived late last night – on time and with his luggage in hand.  We met for breakfast this morning and then spent the day on a sightseeing tour of beautiful London. I am glad to report that I had a wonderful, and very uneventful day.

We just returned from the Opening Ceremony for WorldSkills London and it was an absolutely amazing ceremony.  It began and ended with young people performing song, dance and drama from choirs from four nations:  Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales.  We have discussed for years the need to make sure the ceremonies were youth friendly and tonight it was on the mark!  It even started and ended on time, which was another first for a WorldSkills Opening Ceremony!

They announced that there were nearly 1,000 competitors from 50 countries competing over the next four days, and they are expecting over 200,000 visitors.

Tomorrow I will be heading to the ExCel Center for Day 1 of the competition.  We are becoming quite the experts when manipulating our way on the “Tube,” and tomorrow will be another new experience.  After having my first walk around the site, I will be staffing the booth at Canada House.


All the best,
Ms Skills - Gail Smyth
Executive Director

Ms Skills - From the Executive Director


It's finally here!  Team Canada is prepping and primping for the Opening Ceremonies of the World Skills Competition - WorldSkills London 2011.  Our very own Gail Smyth is on site and will be sending us daily updates!


Greetings from London, England:

At 2:00 p.m. on Friday, September 30th, we (my husband, Ron, and I) arranged for a car to pick up at our house in Kitchener, Ontario and take us to the airport to pick us up for our 5:00 p.m. flight to Detroit.  The weather wasn’t terribly nice so we arrived at the airport shortly after 3:30 p.m. but still in lots of time to catch our flight.  Unfortunately, the flight from Detroit was late leaving Toronto so we arrived in Detroit 20 minutes before our flight to London was scheduled to leave.

The Captain was very reassuring – “Don’t worry, no one is going to miss their connection" ...famous last words.  Unfortunately, our gate seemed miles away from our departing gate and even though we ran most of the way, our names were being called in the distance and the plane left without us.

“Don’t worry,” said the young man at the gate, “we have you on a flight to Amsterdam.”  So we ran again but this time we were more fortunate even though we were the last two people on the plane.  We had an uneventful flight to Amsterdam; unfortunately we had a five-hour wait for our flight to London, England.  We have now been awake for 24 hours.

We arrived safely in London, England and spent the next 1½ hours waiting for our opportunity to speak to the Immigration Officer.  We were beginning to get a little edgy with each other, however, we anxiously went to collect our luggage and, guess what?  No luggage.  “Don’t worry,” said the nice gentleman at the complaint desk “you should have your luggage in two days.”

Disheartened, we nevertheless managed to figure out how to use the “Tube” and find our way to the Jenkins Hotel where we will be staying for the next ten days during the World Skills Competition.  I have a severe case of sleep apnea and, you guessed it, packed away in my missing suitcase is my sleeping machine so, needless to say, I have had a few very sleepless nights.

Obviously, without clean clothes, we haven’t strayed too far from our hotel waiting anxiously for our luggage to arrive.  I am pleased to report that at 12:00 noon today our luggage arrived safe and sound.


Gail Smyth
Executive Director

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Skills Work!® On The Road - Hamilton/Niagara

To me September has always meant new beginnings.  I know it is fall, the season where things die and start to hibernate, but to Skills Canada-Ontario Liaison Officers the season of fall is when it all begins!

This is my first September with Skills Canada-Ontario and it has been busy! The first couple weeks of the new school year were spent in our head office in Kitchener.  All the liaison officers came together to learn this year's “Skills Work!® What’s Out There?” in-school presentation.  This year the presentation has surpassed all of our expectations!  I was excited to see how students would respond.

I hit the road to deliver my first presentations of the year is a tiny town called Fonthill in the Niagara region.  It was a beautiful day!  The students at Fonthill welcomed me to their country school along with two little mice that decided to join the presentation. The students were excited to learn about different opportunites available to them and were especially interested in Renewable Energy projects.  This doesn’t surprise me given that Fonthill has a Specialized High Skills Major focused on this topic. 

I also had a handful of girls interested in coming to the "Skills Work!® for Women" Networking Dinner in St. Catharines! This was exciting for me because this year I am planning the dinner.  These students were very excited to have the opportunity to meet other women who are already in skilled trade and technology careers.  I was thrilled to offer this opportunity to these girls.

Another exciting thing happened this week.  I was able to schedule a presentation at Parkview Secondary School.  Parkview is a unique inner city school dedicated to helping students who are considered “at-risk.”  The guidance counsellor was excited to take my phone call and thrilled that I would take the time to present to her students. There is so much potential in them, and because of government grants and scholarships, they can get a great education at an affordable cost.  I am looking forward to presenting at Parkview and show these students the opportunities that are available to them.  

That’s all for On The Road in the Great Lakes region.  I can’t wait to get out and present to more schools!


April Albano
School Liaison Officer

Monday, September 19, 2011

Stage is set for the world's largest international skills competition


Five students from Ontario will compete for Team Canada at World Skills London 2011



Welcome back friends!  As much as we will miss the warm sunny days of summer, our team at Skills Canada – Ontario is excited for the start of the school year. 

Strange as that may sound, who wouldn’t be excited to cheer on five talented students from Ontario who will be in London, England from 5-8 October representing Team Canada and demonstrating their “skill” on the world stage?  Almost feels like the same infectious excitement that took over Canada when we hosted the Winter Olympics – Oh Canada!

WorldSkills London 2011 will be the world's largest, international skills Competition.  Over 1,000 young people from more than 50 countries/regions will be competing in 46 skill areas.  The ultimate goal for each competitor is to be the best of the best in their chosen contest area.

The five students from Ontario that will be competing for Team Canada are: Jonathan Sinke (Cabinetmaking); Ryan Gomes (Aircraft Maintenance); Tom Middlebro’ (Offset Printing); and, Benjamin Church and Adrian Schut (Mobile Robotics). What an incredible experience this will be for these talented individuals.

I have the privilege of travelling with Team Canada and will be writing a daily blog to share my experience with you.  Stay tuned for updates on our competitors and highlights from this international event which is designed to inspire future generations of skilled, high-quality professionals.

As you are probably well aware, but I think it’s worth repeating often, the mission of Skills Canada – Ontario is to promote careers in the skilled trades and technologies as viable, first-choice career options for young people.  WorldSkills London 2011 is just one of the many great opportunities that young people in Ontario have to explore these exciting and rewarding career opportunities.

The thousands of readers who followed our blog last year got a taste of the award-winning programs and events we coordinate each year.  This year, our readers will still get the same exciting news, plus two new series.  We will be profiling various skilled trade and technological careers, sharing career management tips, and introducing you to past competitors who have gone on to have very successful careers.  I hope you enjoy the new series.

On our Facebook fan page this year we will have some exciting contests.  There will be opportunities for our followers to win an iTunes gift card.

Finally, thank you for being part of our growing online community.  Please feel free to invite others you know (student, parent or teacher) who may want to be part of the excitement and see for themselves that Skills Work!

Gail Smyth,
Executive Director

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Skills Work - At Camp!

St. Lawrence College, Kingston




I spent my last week of camp at St. Lawrence College in Kingston.  This summer went really fast!  How did I get to the end already?


Our first workshop of the week was actually a tour.  We visited the MacLachlan Woodworking Museum, and we learned how to make shakes.  They’re really old-timey and we had to use an old-timey way of cutting the logs.  It’s kinda hard to explain, so I got some pictures!  We used a kind of saw thing, and had to hammer on it to cut the wood.  That’s not like using a saw at all!  But it cuts it the right way.  That got us all ready to do a carpentry workshop and boy am I a pro by now!  We made mini paddles, and we got to use power sanders!  We all added different coloured strips of wood to the centre of our paddles so they were all unique.  Carpentry can be really artistic, but nobody seems to really talk about that part.  Anyway, our leader was Barry, and he seemed like he had hung out with kids a lot.  That was really cool.



Our next workshop was culinary.  I’m gonna have to have a party and invite over all my friends and then feed them all the stuff I learned how to cook this summer!  Chef Richard and Chef Ryan showed us how to make turkey kabobs, which we ate for breakfast right away.  Then we spent the rest of the morning making pizza and cookies and that’s what we had for lunch!  Well, I managed to save a few cookies to take home and I gave them to my sister.  My mom said that was nice of me, but really I was just stuffed from all the food I had already eaten.  Don’t tell her!




I think my favourite workshop of the week was masonry, because we got to actually make bricks.  I’m not joking!  Our leader, Dave, gave us a couple of different moulds that we filled with cement, and when it was almost dry, he said we could write our names in a brick or put a handprint in, and we got to take our bricks home!  That was cool.  We also learned how to spread mortar, and we did some surveying.  I always wondered what those construction workers were doing with that stuff!  They use it to measure slopes and levels and stuff.  Anyway, that was fun.




Our last workshop of the week was electrical, and we wired up a button to a bell so that when you pushed the button, the bell would ring.  And right after, we built propeller cars with our camp leaders, Jessica and Emily.  So the cars made a lot of sense, because we had talked about circuits and built one already.  The person who ran the electrical workshop, James, talked a lot about safety.  I definitely noticed a lot of people talking about safety this summer!  But James actually explained some stuff.  Like why we have to wear different types of safety gear, even when it doesn’t seem necessary.  I thought that was really helpful.


The week ended with our big TV debut!  CKWS came out to watch us after we finished making our gliders and filmed us doing our big launching competition!  It was so, so awesome.  We got to be on TV!  And the glider competition is fun – we make the gliders out of balsa wood and Styrofoam sheets and create them however we want, and then we have a contest to see who’s plane goes the furthest, or the straightest or whose is most acrobatic.  Did I mention it was on TV??

Well, I guess I’d better get my school supplies ready to go.  I had such a blast at camp, trying out lots of different skilled trades!  My school doesn’t have any design and technology classes, but I really, really want to take some when I get to high school!  I hope all my camp leaders had a great time too, because they were awesome!  Thanks, Skills Canada – Ontario!  Maybe I’ll see you next summer!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Skills Work - At Camp!

Linamar, Guelph



Well, I’ve been dreading it, but it had to come – my last week!  I totally ended on the best note possible.  This camp at Linamar in Guelph?  It was an all girls’ camp!  I definitely didn’t need to worry about being the only girl!  It was so awesome to meet different women who work for Linamar in so many different trades.  And they let us use all kinds of machines and tools!

On the first day, we met Linda Hasenfratz.  She’s the big boss, so that was super cool!  Ms. Hasenfratz was so incredibly nice.  Her dad started Linamar way back in the 60s, and Ms. Hasenfratz told us all about her job and how she worked her way up through the company.  Then we got a tour of the facility and a presentation about safety.  I’m going to be the safest person ever after all this!

We had our leaders from Skills Canada – Ontario, April and Shannon, but we also had people from Linamar helping us through workshops too – Jamie and Chris.  Since we were trying so much new stuff, I was super happy to have extra help!

Our first workshop of the week was machining, something I had never done before.  But before we got started, one of the women who works at Linamar, Grace, talked to us about what machining is.  Good call, since it’s her job!  She was so totally enthusiastic about it, it was awesome!  Anyway, after that, we were given a piece of plastic, and then we had to do measurements to figure out what parts to cut off and how much.  Then Chris helped us use a machine to cut the plastic into the right shapes and specifications and ended up with…a pen holder!





On the second day, we did a workshop in hand tooling, I think it’s called?  One of the workshop leaders, Jen, is a millwright, which is somebody who repairs machines when they break down.  She knows a lot of stuff!  Anyway, she told us about what being a millwright is and how to use different types of tools.  We brought our pen holders with us so we could use different tools to refine them.  It was pretty cool.



We did an electrical workshop on Thursday, where we soldered a resistor to a LED bulb in a circuit.  I am so good at electrical work!  Maybe I should think about being an electrician too.  So many choices!  One thing I hadn’t tried before, we used heat shrink tubing to secure the connections.  Weird!  And also cool.



Our last workshop of the week was automation and robotics.  It was just awesome.  It was nothing like those nerdy robot shows on TV.  Robots are used all over the place in manufacturing!  They can be really simple and really confusing at the same time!  After we learned some of the basics, we programmed robots to touch different points on a grid, without knocking pegs over.  We were in two teams, and we competed against each other to see who could leave the most pegs standing.  Super fun!



 We also toured a few other facilities.  I really liked SkyJack.  I’ve seen those machines around, and I had no idea they were made in Southern Ontario!  Crazy.  Courtney, a welder at SkyJack, showed us a bit of how they’re made, and we got to see a giant robotic welder (see?  Robots everywhere!), and then we went up and down in the different lifts.  So fun!  Another tour we did was to a place called Vehcom, which is part of Linamar.  They told us about products they make and we asked lots of questions.

I’m really glad I did this camp after trying out a lot of other hand tools and stuff at other camps.  It really made the whole thing less scary and I felt more comfortable with some of the really unusual stuff I tried out this week.



What an awesome summer!  And here I was, totally thinking it was gonna be boring!  I have so many stories to tell my friends when I go back to school.  Good thing I don’t have to wait long!  Thanks a lot for a wicked summer, Skills Canada – Ontario!  Maybe I’ll get on a cardboard boat race team this year and see some of my leaders again!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Skills Work - At Camp!

Confederation College, Thunder Bay




During the last week of July, I made my way to Thunder Bay for camp at Confederation College.  The campus was bigger than I thought it would be, and they have a whole building just for skilled trades programs.


Our first workshop of the week was electrical.  It’s a popular one for Mondays, but I’ve done so many different types of electrical workshops that it has actually been interesting.  We wired batteries and then used the charge to pick up paper clips.  It was kinda fun, trying to see how many paper clips we could pick up.  I’ve done that with magnets, but I never thought about the magnetic charge of a battery before.  Plus we tried our construction skills at making bridges out of straws.  Our leader was Sandra, and she’s obviously used to working with kids our age.  She takes her electrical program into the schools around here or something, so she was totally prepared for us.



One thing I had never done before was welding.  I was soooo scared!  At first I thought the only danger was setting stuff on fire.  Then I found out that welding involves a lot of electricity, so I had to worry about electrocuting myself too!  Plus, there are like a million different types of welding and so many crazy tools you can use, like a plasma cutter.  I was so freaked out!  Our workshop leader, Jim, was amazing though.  He assured us that as long as we were using our protective gear right, and we weren’t messing around, welding was perfectly safe.  And you know what?  I made an awesome decorative hanger for plants, nobody got hurt, and it was really fun!  Who knew?



I was definitely back on comfortable ground with carpentry. We made a different kind of birdhouse than any before, and this workshop focused a lot on math.  Did you know that carpenters do all kinds of conversions in their heads?  They have to constantly calculate fractions, and convert between metric and imperial measurements – all without a calculator!  Anyway, my birdhouse was totally amazing.  Maybe I should be a carpenter, since I’ve gotten this good after just a few workshops!



I also had an automotive workshop at this camp, and I know nothing about cars.  (I don’t even care about cars, except that I can’t wait to have a driver’s license and go wherever I want whenever I want!)  I realized after this workshop just how handy it is to know the basics.  We learned what kinds of tools and computers are used to figure out problems with cars, and how to repair a flat tire.  Then we toured the truck and coach shop on campus and took turns sitting in a custom-built hot rod.  I would probably never do something like fix a flat tire, but it got me thinking about how useful it is to know how to change a tire, or even just how a car works.  I think I might take an auto class in high school, just to get more experience.



One morning at camp, we took a trip to Union Gas.  That was pretty cool, ‘cause my parents always talk about the “gas guy” coming to the house and paying the gas bill and stuff, and I never got it.  But now I totally do!  Willie, our tour guide, showed us some of the equipment they use to locate gas lines before building on a site, he showed us how to read a meter, and he talked a lot about safety.  Everybody talks a lot about safety at these camps!  But I guess if you’re going to work with electricity and gas lines and saws and stuff, that’s probably a good thing.

Not gonna lie, I never really thought about working in skilled trades.  But after four weeks at skilled trade camps, I really think I could do this stuff!  One more week to go!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Skills Work - At Camp!


Sault College, Sault Ste. Marie



My second-last camp was at Sault College in Sault Ste. Marie.  (I found out that "Sault" is pronounced “soo.”  Isn’t that weird?)  Anyway, Sault Ste. Marie was kinda far from everywhere else I’ve been, but there’s a lot going on in the town during the summer.  And the campus is pretty cool because they have so many different programs.  It was worth the trip!

On our first afternoon, a lady named Lisa came to our camp to talk about safety.  I already knew some stuff, because of hearing Eric’s presentation a couple of weeks ago.  But this was super cool.  Lisa split us into teams and had us go through part of the college to find safety stuff – good and bad.  My team found a tonne of stuff!  We’re so observant.


In our electrical workshop, we made a keychain flashlight that was also a strobe light.  Part of it involved soldering wires to a small electrical board, which is really hard!  Our workshop leader, Ken, was pretty patient with me though, and I got the hang of it in the end though.  It was fun, and now I have a flashlight keychain to show off!  Maybe going back to school won’t be so bad with all this cool stuff I have to talk about!



Electrical was in the morning, and then in the afternoon we did a culinary workshop.  We made cinnamon rolls from scratch.  Well, Jason, our workshop leader, had prepared dough ahead of time so that we wouldn’t have to wait for the dough to rise.  But he showed us how to make it, and I have the recipe so I can make it at home from scratch when I have lots of time.  I love this cooking stuff, it’s really fun!  And the best part is sampling everything you make – yum!

I got to do another hairstyling workshop this week.  Our workshop leader, Paula, taught me how to make a braid.  I tried braiding a mannequin’s hair, and that’s really hard too!  How do girls do it so easily??  Maybe it’s just a practice thing.  I even let one of the girls paint my fingernails.  But black nail polish only…I at least wanted to look like a rock star!



We did a lot of tours this week too.  We went through the airplane hangar at the college, which was neato.  They have a flight training program, and we got to sit in a lot of the planes.  One of the aircraft mechanics was there to answer questions about being an aircraft mechanic.  She told us that there are more women in aircraft maintenance than other types of motive power trades.  Apparently, a lot of women entered the trade during World War II, and that paved the way for more women after them.  I think my mom told me once that her grandmother was an aircraft mechanic during the war.  I’m going to ask her about that.



Continuing with our plane theme, we also visted the Bushplane Museum, and that was really fun.  I learned stuff, like how planes stay up and how the wings work, but I also tried out the simulator games and stuff.  It was awesome!  We also toured the Brookfield Wind Farm, which I thought was cool too.  Wind power is so amazing!  The farm had 126 windmills, and we actually got to go inside to see how they work.



I only have one more week of camp left!  Where did the summer go??