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Secondary school skills competition hosted by Loyalist

By Melissa Murray

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Vince Kennelly cuts a piece of wood with a mitre saw in the construction lab at Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf in Belleville, Ont. Kennelly is participating in the first Loyalist skills competition being held on March 1, 2012. He and his friends volunteered to represent St. Theresa Catholic Secondary School in the four-person construction competition. Photo by Melissa Murray

While students are studying, travelling, and taking some time off from Loyalist during reading break, area high school students will labour in a full-day skills competition at the college.

Vince Kennelly, a grade 12 student at St. Theresa’s Catholic Secondary School, is one of the students taking part in the competition. Kennelly will be part of a four-person team in the carpentry competition.

“My teacher wanted to put some people in the competition, so me and a couple of friends volunteered,” said Kennelly.

“I’m not really sure what to expect, but I’ve been playing around with some projects to practice,” he said.

This is the first year the college has offered the skills competition, which will take place Thursday, March 1. Grade 11 and 12 students will compete in seven different areas including architectural design, automotive, precision machining, aesthetics, welding and two or four-person carpentry in the hopes of winning up to a $2,000 scholarship to the college.

The competition gives Loyalist the opportunity to showcase the school and the opportunity to have future students in the building, said Tom Malloy, Dean for the schools of skills training, access and continuing education.

“What we really tried to do was attract students to the college to see and experience the facility.

“From the college’s perspective, we are really trying to promote the value of skills and selfishly, we want students to have the experience of being in our facility, using our equipment and looking at what excellent resources we can provide,” he said.

The idea for the event was to create a regional example of the annual Skills Canada competition, which happens in Waterloo every year in May, said Malloy.

He first mentioned the idea last spring and worked with Trenval and the Eastern Ontario Training Board to get the project rolling.

“When I went to and met with the various individuals at the school board offices, they were absolutely thrilled with the idea because currently, without Loyalist having the competition, they were sending their students to Kingston to a regional competition,” said Malloy.

With the recent addition of a $16.6-million Skills Centre, including space for biosciences and building sciences, the capacity within the programs went up by 200 students.

“The addition of the new skills centre increased our capacity in the skills programs, so we are trying to increase the awareness of the facility and part of that is to increase the enrolment as well,” said Malloy.

Students were hand-selected for the competitions from their high schools within the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board, Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board, Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board and Limestone District School Board.

“This gives them the opportunity to provide a competition to their students locally, rather than having to take them to Kingston, which is problematic for schools as far as Cobourg or as far north as Bancroft.”

Initially, the event was planned for about 75-80 students, but current registration numbers suggest more than 100 students could be attending.

“We have had our challenges, but I think at the end of the day, when we see the finished product on March 1, we will see how well it did come together and how quickly it happened.

“The intent here is we hope this becomes an annual event. So we are breaking new ground. We are learning from it and it’s been great,” said Malloy.

While the event helps to bring students to Loyalist and acts as a practice for the Ontario Skills competition, Malloy and skills competition co-ordinator Treena Ellis said they also hope to increase the confidence and skills for job training in the competitors.

While the competition takes place from 9-5 p.m., 95 per cent of the score is tallied from the physical work being completed and five per cent is calculated from an interview with industry professionals, said Ellis.

“They have to give us a resume and they have to be prepared to answer certain questions,” she said.

“It’s good also, because there are so many students on a daily basis that don’t talk to people — they text people. We all do it, but certainly when you go in for an interview, you have to have the confidence and know what they are looking for,” she said.

“Some of these students in Grade 11 or 12 have never had an interview, so it is good practice.”

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