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


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 

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 to search options!
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:

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’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