Cambrian College wins big at provincial skills competition


competing at skills competition 2014	Last month, students from the computer systems technology (CETY) program at Cambrian College in Sudbury, Ontario, won six medals at the 25th annual Ontario Technological Skills Competition, an initiative that showcases the talented skills of Ontario’s youth. Brandon Petrenko, Josh Marshall, Jeffrey (Jeff) Cloutier, Sierra Macdonald-Talbot, Mitchell Antler, and Chris Gardner competed against more than 1,900 students in one of the over 60 skilled trade areas to clinch three golds, two silvers and one bronze.

Fuelling the students’ interest in this annual competition is something the school takes seriously right from the start of the year. CETY professor Bob Vachon introduces all of the program’s students to this competition on the first day of classes. Faculty vote on second-year and third-year representatives and Vachon later approaches them to determine if they would be interested in competing. “Once students are selected, our department pays the registration fee,” Vachon said. “We (faculty) then meet with students to discuss the competition scope and help them with any areas of concern. All travel, meals, and accommodations are paid by our department.”

Cambrian College helps students prepare for successful careers in the IT field, and the OTSC is a part of this process. Being backed by a strong program and faculty are also key. “Although the competition changes every year, our approach is the same way as always,” Vachon said. “Our curriculum is very dynamic and is always evolving to incorporate new technologies. When there are areas which we find ourselves deficient in, then we (faculty) make sure that we update our curriculum to address this.”

Each student selected to compete should understand that the school needs a commitment from them to practise and compete for two years, according to Robbie Duncan, a professor and the coordinator of the welding program at Cambrian. For instance, Jeff Cloutier, who won gold in welding, competed last year as a first-year student and knew the areas he needed to practise to fine-tune his skills for this year’s event. “All faculty were approached and asked to allow Jeff into their shop classes to enable him time to practise,” Duncan said. “Each of them shared some tips which were beneficial to his improvement.

 “There are a number of benefits of competing at any of the competitions,” added Duncan. “It gives you a sense of how you will react under pressure and helps prepare you for the pressure of testing. Obtaining welding certification through testing is very beneficial to students for securing employment.”

Josh Marshall, who won gold in IT and network support and is a third-year CETY student, said he was proud of his win: “It's a great feeling when you devote hours of your time studying and having all that work pay off with a podium finish.”

As for what his impressions were of the competition, Marshall said it was slightly intimidating at first. “There's a large variety of competitions taking place with almost 1,900 competitors, plus thousands of spectators visiting the site,” he said. “It was unlike any other assessment I took, because instead of writing a simple two-hour exam in a quiet room, I was tasked with completing a variety of challenges over the course of eight hours in a large arena with the background noise of hundreds of people walking by. You definitely got the impression you were a part of something momentous when you showed up to RIM Park and got a look at everything that was taking place.”

Around 30,000 spectators attended the three-day event in Waterloo, making OTSC the biggest competition of its kind in Canada. Provincial championships winners advanced to the nationals, which took place in Toronto from June 4 to 7.