Four students from Weyburn Comprehensive School attended the SKILLS Canada competition last weekend in Quebec City. Grade 12 student Camryn Greve brought home the Gold in IT Office Software Applications, Grade 12 student Sy Boquida placed Sixth in Baking, Grade 11 student Andrew Bratrud placed sixth in Architectural Technology and Design, and Grade 11 student Niegel Zagada placed sixth in Mechanical Engineering Computer-Aided Design. 

Taking place over two days, amid around 20 competitors in 100 categories, plus 5,000 elementary school students attending as spectators, the students said their experience with the event was surprising, not having attended the provincial competition. In fact, they said they had not heard of the SKILLS program prior to this year, when their teachers encouraged them to participate.

"I didn't really realize how huge of an event this really was. I think for people in Ontario and Quebec, this is a big thing and it's just not represented in Saskatchewan enough," commented Bratrud. "But when we get there, it was huge. There were so many people. It was really cool to see everyone doing their own thing."

Boquida said she had to plan for weeks to ensure she had all her tools, such as bowls, spoons, knives, and more, yet she realized other competitors had brought even more along with them. Zagada said he only had one computer, whereas other competitors had much larger setups.

Nonetheless, they participated in their individual challenges, each with its own set of timeframes and assignments.

For Greve, it was a total of 10 hours over the two days. 

"I was given a case study, I guess you would call it, I had to work for the Quebec City Seafood Association. I had to make them a variety of documents, like I had to do financial statements, an amortization schedule, which tells you how much payment you have to make in a mortgage. Business cards, a report, a presentation," she shared, noting it was Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and an integrated project using all three Microsoft Office products in a practical way, "making lots of different documents for a company in a situation that they actually would need in real life."

Greve added it's a skill set that could be an asset to any future career prospect.

She said it was exciting, and she was a little nervous, not knowing what to expect, but, "I was super excited to be representing my province at something like that, and then also getting to meet people from all over Canada was really cool too." 

Boquida had baking assignments that totaled eight hours, which also saw a bit of a last-minute change to her plan. She had planned to present her bread in the third section.

"But then when the judge was telling us you have to present the bread second and I'm like, 'Oh no, because the bread takes so much time to rise and then I have to put like two hours of it on the proofer!', and then the judge was just like looking at me, like, "you have to change it'."

"I had to bake 24 cookies, but then it needs to be a specific size, and it's kind of tricky because if you bake a cookie then if it spreads so much then points get deducted easily."

She added she doesn't plan to go into culinary arts for a career.

Bratrud had 14 hours that included four challenges in architecture. 

"They gave me a floor plan of a house with an unfinished basement. And I needed to develop a like a a rental suite that had separate entrances and separate everything," he explained. "Then the second one, I had to develop it on Revit, which is like a platform where it's like a 3D model almost, so you can like do like a walk through and see what it would be like in your life."

Zagada said his competition was nine hours, which included creating a movable joint that can hold anything and integrate it into a table mount, which could assist people with disabilities. Then he had to take 3D model parts and assemble them so they moved like a machine, then he had to create a universal joint, which was his favourite part of the competition. The last part, he said, was the most difficult, involving gears, and math, which them had to be capable of functioning.  

The challenge was real for Zagada, having only taken Drafting 20, but requiring skills one learns in Drafting 30.

"It was really stressful, but I really liked this one, it really like fired up my passion for mechanical engineering, and I'm planning on taking it for post secondary," he noted. 

"I'm really grateful to Mr. Lund," he added. "Even though the sanctions were happening, he tried his best." 

Greve said without her advisor Mrs. Margot Arnold, she wouldn't have known about the competition. 

"I definitely would not have had the courage to go out and do it," she shared. "For me, having my teacher's support was the most motivating thing that really helped me go out there." 

"Ms Olson really encouraged me to participate in this, in the way that built my hobby skills up," said Boquida. "Like, 'Yes! I'm gonna do this! I'm gonna make you proud!'. That's what I was thinking, 'I'm gonna make Weyburn proud!'." 

"It's because of her I expanded my thinking and then my knowledge about baking, so I'm really happy that she told me about SKILLS."

"I'm sure Niegel agrees when I say that Mr. Lund is the type of teacher that, like, you want as a teacher. He's the life-changing one, the kind of person that really puts you on a path that's good," said Bradtrud.

"He was really passionate about teaching the drafting course," shared Zagada. 

"You could tell that he enjoyed what he did," Bradtrud noted. "He really liked teaching and he also liked what he was teaching. That's that type of thing that is really making impacts in schools and I think we need more of that for teachers."

The next SKILLS Canada competition is going to be held in Regina. With no teachers being able to attend, each of the four students said they hope that can encourage more regional and provincial competitions leading up to that event, with more funding available from the province and school division for participation of the teachers as well.