Rolling in style with skills

PCHS teacher Dick Unruh stands beside the newly acquired bus that will be shipping students to and from Skills Canada competitions.

PCHS teacher Dick Unruh stands beside the newly acquired bus that will be shipping students to and from Skills Canada competitions.


PCHS Skills Canada students will be heading to competition in style now.

Dick Unruh, a shop teacher at the school, has purchased a new bus for Skills Canada and received a fantastic deal on it.

“I went to Las Vegas and picked it up, but it was $18,000,” said Unruh during an interview at PCHS.

Unruh says that a comparable vehicle in Canada would be close to $55,000.

“It also has wheelchair access, so if we ever have a student who is in a wheelchair, we would be able to take them on,” said Unruh.

The money used to purchase this vehicle was money donated to the school by Skills Canada to upgrade their facilities. The school received over $200,000 two years ago and had around $18,000 left after upgrades to various parts of the shops at the school.

Skills Canada is a competition for high school students across Canada in trades such as auto, cabinetmaking, photography and many other categories. It is organized into regional, provincial and national sections.

PCHS Skills Canada students competed at Red Deer College on April 28 and a select few will be competing at the provincial level in Edmonton on May 11 and 12.

The high school sent nine students to the regional competition in the fields of carpentry, cabinet making, mechanics and fabrication.

Before the school had the bus, they would rent vehicles, but it would end up costing the school around $600 for a two-day competition.

“We even borrowed big vehicles from parents at times, so (the bus) makes it a lot easier on us,” said Unruh.

Unruh says that he always starts students thinking about Skills Canada as soon as they start at PCHS. He even insists that young students who aren’t participating in the competitions still come and observe and be ready for when they do get the chance to compete.

“I always get young guys to observe,” said Unruh.

“Just watching the competition is a big help for them because they’ll be in it next year,” he added.

Grade 10 student Jonathan VandePol is one of the students who will be observing. VandePol is a student at the Ponoka Outreach School, but attends PCHS only for the cabinetmaking program.

“I’m more precise and enjoy working with my hands,” said VandePol. “I hope I can compete at Skills Canada next year,” he added.

The woodworking and trades programs at Ponoka Composite have managed to draw in many students due to its winning record at Skills Canada.

Unruh himself has been teaching for over 25 years and has been involved in Skills Canada for over 10 with PCHS.

Unruh puts an emphasis on going into the trades with his students. Many who compete at Skills Canada remain with the trade and pursue it at a post-secondary level, whether it is a two-year program at Red Deer College or an apprenticeship.

“Nothing in high school is better than Skills Canada because it prepares the kids for life. Our motto for the school is ‘Every student is to be a success’ and not everybody goes into athletics. Skills Canada has an opening for these kids who are interested in developing a skill in an area they’re interested in,” said Unruh. “Like I tell the kids, it’s fun to win, so you get out of it what you put into it.”