Skills Competition

SkillsThe task?

Use a boom truck to pick up a large drum filled with water, hoist it carefully to the top of a crow’s nest, then remove it and swing the load to knock over a small plastic bottle perched on a can.

Sounds simple, yes?

But do it without spilling a drop of water from the drum and while you’re being watched by a bunch of spectators.

Oh, and just to make things more interesting, your performance is being scrutinized and marked by judges Bob McQueen and Ken Boyle.

That was one of the challenges facing eight Local 793 mobile crane apprentices who competed in an Ontario Technological Skills Competition at RIM Park in Waterloo on May 5.

The event, sponsored by Skills Ontario, is the largest skilled trades competition in Canada. It featured 67 skilled trades and technologies contests and 2,000 competitors from high schools, colleges and training centres across Ontario.

The Local 793 apprentices were put through a series of practical exercises and had to complete a written test.

Mike Noltie, one of the Local 793 crane apprentices at the event, had just completed the practical part of the test and was on a break.

It was difficult, he said, but he persevered.

“It was fun and it was challenging,” said the 28-year-old apprentice with Sterling Crane. “There’s so much water in the drum and they’re judging us on how much we spill.”

The key was to complete the exercise quickly and without spilling too much water.

Mike admitted to spilling some of the water.

“There’s always a little bit spilled,” he noted.

There were a number of exercises for the apprentices to complete. They had to lift loads and maneuver them carefully around obstacles. Judges took notes and scored participants in several areas.

Mathew Whalen, a 29-year-old crane apprentice with Amherst Crane Rentals Ltd., said the exercises were tough but a good learning experience.

“It was a good challenge. You use all the functions of the crane at once. It gives you real-life situations.”

An exercise involving tennis balls was particularly tricky.

As part of the test, apprentices were required to move a heavy weight in and around poles with tennis balls on top. If the balls fell, or the poles were bumped, points were deducted from their scores.

“I think I knocked two over,” said Mathew.

“That’s not too bad. That’s two out of 30, It’s a time thing too so you want to go faster but you’ll hit more tennis balls if you go too quick.”

Ryan Vanwynsberghe, a 28-year-old crane apprentice with Anmar Mechanical and Electrical Ltd., said the course was trying.

“If you lean on the lever a little too hard you can spill a lot of water quite easily,” he noted.

“We had a few practice runs here last week. It’s a lot easier for some guys, depending on the amount of seat time that they get on the job.”

More than 20,000 spectators turned out over two days to witness the skills of Ontario’s young people in action in everything from plumbing to automotive service work.

Local 793 and the OETIO had mechanical and crane simulators on display in a booth at the event so students could try their hands at the controls.

The booth won first place in the medium-sized booth category. The award was given for interaction, innovation and technology.

Local 793 apprenticeship training co-ordinator Joe Dowdall said he was pleased with both the award and turnout at the event.

“We are very happy about this. Our hard work has paid off and this year is the first year we have won this award.”

There were about 1,900 competitors in more than 65 contests.

Winners of various events were presented with gold, silver and bronze medals.

Winners of the crane competition were: Jack Finkle (gold); Michael Noltie (silver); Cameron Fenton (bronze).

“Those who compete at the OTSC are the future of the skilled trades and technologies in Ontario,” Gail Smyth, executive director of Skills Ontario, said in a press release.

“We believe there’s no better way for a young person to jumpstart their career than by providing them the opportunity to tell future employers they are a gold medalist in their field.”