Top PCHS students finish well

Ponoka’s Team Alberta representatives did well at the Canadian Skills Competition, just missing out on making the national team.

  • Jun. 2, 2010 2:00 p.m.

Construction technology teacher Dietrich Unruh with Skills Canada finalists Katrina Pylypow

Ponoka’s Team Alberta representatives did well at the Canadian Skills Competition, just missing out on making the national team.

PCHS students have now won 73 medals in 16 years of competing at Skills Canada. “We expect every student in the school to be successful,” said Dietrich Unruh, construction and technologies teacher at Ponoka Composite High School.

Skills Canada is a national, not-for-profit organization that works with employers, educators, labour groups and governments to promote skilled trades and technology careers among Canadian youth.

Bryce Walls, earned second place in cabinetmaking, Miranda Brookwell placed second in prepared speech, and Katrina Pylypow finished fourth in job skills.

The top students make the national team that will represent Canada next year in London, England at World Skills International.

Unruh said he’s proud of all of the PCHS students who competed at all levels of the Skills Canada challenge. “I’ve got really good kids. They’re really good kids.”

Bryce Walls, cabinetmaking

In a Skills Canada discipline that requires precision, sometimes the simplest, most basic step could be your downfall.

That was the case for Unruh’s star pupil, Bryce Walls. He breezed through the provincial competition to become a member of Team Alberta. In Waterloo, Ont. for the Canadian Skills Competition, his challenge was to build from scratch a bench with a box and lid and curved legs, crafted from walnut and cherry woods. The student craftsman had 14 hours to build the piece.

“We had two days to prepare for nationals,” Unruh said. Other provinces held their finals earlier in the month and had weeks to practice the joinery skills that would be called upon at the national competition. “Bryce was going in cold.”

“He had the gold until about the last hour but he cut the bottom…too narrow,” Unruh said. “His workmanship was excellent. It couldn’t have been better.

“If he could have built that bench once he wouldn’t have made that mistake (in competition).”

Walls admits he misread the tape measure. “I cut my lid too big and my bottom too small. Other than that…”

If you need more wood to correct a mistake you get docked points.

“The toughest competition of all is cabinetmaking,” Unruh said, “because you have to be so precise.”

Walls has developed his skills by repeatedly practicing, eliminating the possibility of mistakes. “I was terrible when I started out,” he admits.

“Now he’s perfect,” Unruh added.

To help his students succeed, he ensures they have the skills and the tools to do the job. “I buy the best tools for them. I sharpen them, before we go.”

Unruh feels sorry for students who come to the competition with cheap, dull tools. “They don’t have a hope of doing well.

“I think we have the best woodworking shop in of any school in Alberta. For a small town, that’s amazing.”

Walls graduates Grade 12 this weekend and plans to apprentice at his father’s shop, Ponoka Cabinet Makers. As a post-secondary student he will still be able to compete in the Skills Canada Competition and he’s looking forward to challenging for as spot on the national team that would go to Germany in 2013.

Miranda Brookwell, prepared speech

Brookwell’s speech was on the topic: “How trades and technologies are the connections to Canada’s future.”

She focused on the national labour shortage and how for the technologies to reach their full potential and become the connection to Canada’s future “we need to incorporate minorities to make the workplace more welcoming.” Employers need to break down stereotypes to meet the demand for workers.

One aspect of the national competition that impressed Brookwell, a Grade 10 student, was that it was the best of the best, more than 500 students competing in their element. “We got to see everyone doing what they love, and their work.”

The winner in the competition was a Grade 12 student from Ontario where public speaking comes much sooner in the curriculum. “She’d been making presentations since Grade 2,” Brookwell said with a laugh. “She was a lot more experienced. She was more comfortable.”

Brookwell has been bitten by the public speaking bug and wants to continue competing, using her skills to build a career as a hospital administrator. Employers need staff to do multi-media presentations and to communicate well.

She’s found the competition has improved her communication and organizational abilities. “I’ve found this really enhances your people skills,” she said. “This is such an important skill to learn.”

“She did super well because she’s competing against Grade 12 kids,” Unruh said. “We were just new in the competition. To do well you have to be able to think on your feet because the judges ask you questions.”

Katrina Pylypow, job skills

The ability to improvise can mean the difference between life and death on the job site. Katrina Pylypow’s job skills demonstrated how an injured worker can be stabilized and comforted, providing first aid using materials commonly found on the job.

Using a live assistant, the Grade 10 student showed a panel of judges how to treat four injuries that commonly occur at a worksite using CPR, stopping bleeding caused by an amputation, and dealing with two types of bone fractures. The materials she brought with her included cardboard, plastic bags, sandwich bags, old rags and foam drinking cups.

In the case of a broken bone: “The first thing you need top do is immobilize the injured fracture,” she explained. “You want to create a splint from the materials available.”

That could be sticks, lumber, cardboard or rolled up newspaper. A shoelace or duct tape can be used to tie everything together. An arm in a sling can be pinned to a shirt collar or placed inside the shirt, between button spaces.

Pylypow got to put her skills to the test at home when her mothered suffered a hot oil burn. “It was really neat to apply the knowledge I learned to be able to help someone out.”

She hopes to establish a career in the medical field.

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