Two welders from Diamond Jenness Secondary School took second and third place at a territorial Skills Canada competition earlier this month, narrowly missing out on moving on to the national stage, but they – and their teacher – were far from disappointed.
“It was really good,” said second-place finisher Zack Bonnetrouge. “I did better than last year.”
Bonnetrouge was one of four students to head to Yellowknife May 6 to compete against other young tradespeople from the NWT, joining Nicholas Cockney who finished third in the welding contest, as well as Grace Osted and Novie Bourday who competed in cooking. The students all took part in the regional event held at DJSS earlier this year when Skills Canada came to town along with a career fair.
“I guess the toughest part is the pressure of trying to get all your welds right,” said Bonnetrouge of his experience in the capital this time around. He competed last year as well, but said that the extra time put into practicing this year made all the difference.
“I go for the challenge of it, I guess,” he said, adding that he will be graduating this year and already has a job lined up at Kingland Ford. “They’ve been part of my training. I practiced before I went (to Yellowknife) both at school and the Kingland shop and that was really really good.”
The top finishes at the event earlier this month aside, shop teacher Tim Borchuck said he is pleased overall with the evolution of the trades programs at the high school.
“Trades are a big thing,” he said. “But here, we don’t want to teach them a trade so much as we want to give them a taste of the things they could do and help them pursue it. They get to sample everything.”
He also noted that the regional competition being hosted at the school had an impact on how many students went to the finals in the capital this year. Borchuck said he hopes to see that number grow in future years.
“We’re certainly wanting Skills Canada to host it here again,” he said, adding how the school is pushing for more diverse opportunities for its students in terms of trades programs. “But it’s like anything; you have to grow it. You can’t go a million miles an hour right off the bat.”
At the base of it, Borchuck said giving trades a try is about widening a student’s scope of experience and ultimately making them more employable – not about winning medals. He did admit, however, that the recognition from peers and professionals went a long way toward encouraging students to put their names forward.
“I’m proud of all of them,” he said. “It’s a big decision to put themselves out there and say ‘look, this is what I can do.’”