Skills competition helping aspiring young tradespeople in N.S. get ahead

By Steve Gow

Every year in the spring, a friendly competition takes place in the province that aims to provide young Nova Scotians with a chance to showcase their skills in trades and technology, while business owners scout upcoming talent.

Robin Lorway is the acting executive director of the Nova Scotia Skills Competition and says the contest is spread out over March and April at mostly community college campuses.

“Each campus has different specialties,” she told CityNews Halifax, with the final event on April 23 at the Building Trades Advancement College in Lakeside.

The competitions taking place that day are for high school students in carpentry, electrical installations, welding, and workplace safety. The event is also open to the public.

“We are also having a career showcase so we have people from industry and different trades that aren’t represented in the competitions (so) we are having tryout trades and students can try and have hands-on activities to kind of explore the trades.”

Nearly 280 secondary and post-secondary students and apprentices come together for the competition that accommodates events in almost 40 different trades annually.

Gold medal winners in their chosen field then advance to represent Team Nova Scotia at the Skills Canada National Competition in Quebec City later this year.

While there is a $40 registration fee for entrants, that cost is often covered for many registrants through partnerships with Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC), the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency and the Nova Scotia Department of Education.

For those who do compete, it is an excellent opportunity to get noticed in your field of expertise.

“It is life-changing,” explains Lorway. “They get to experience what it’s like to put their skills and talents on display and they get to meet people from across the country or even across the world who have a similar interest (so) it’s really a neat connection that they get to make through the Skills Competition.”

As much as it is a perk for prospective trades and technology students, the Nova Scotia Skills Competition is also helping employers find burgeoning, new talent in many areas that are consistently short on workers.

“I can remember starting at Skills thinking, ‘is this trade shortage going to happen?'” recalls Lorway. “You speak to so many people and it used to be five people for one job. Now, there’s five jobs and only one person – there’s just not enough people to fill the jobs in skilled trades and technology.”

Having been involved with the Nova Scotia Skills Competition for nearly two decades, Lorway has witnessed just how much the annual event helps young talented Nova Scotians find their way into the workplace — a yearly experience that fills her with pride.

“I’ve been here for 17 years with the organization and I wouldn’t do that if it weren’t for this whole competition aspect of things,” Lorway said. “It is amazing seeing young people thrive (and) once they get a medal on the national stage or the provincial stage, no matter what they get — the sense of pride is just incredible to see and 17 years of doing this and I’m not going to change a thing.”

For more information on the N.S. Skills Competition, visit the website.

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