5/23/2003 2:54:28 PM
By Cathy Finn
A competitor works hard in the Autobody Repair competition during the 6th Annual Provincial Skills Canada Skilled Trade and Technology Competitions. CNA students took Gold, Silver, and Bronze.
Baking and Culinary Arts were just two of the 17 skill areas in which CNA took home the Gold
May 23, 2003 – When Jason Sparrow is sniffing the Alpine air in Switzerland next month, he figures a few hectic weeks in April will have been worth it.
Sparrow is one of a four-member team from College of the North Atlantic (CNA) in St. John’s (Prince Philip Drive campus) that will represent Canada at the 37th World Skills Competition in St. Gallen, Switzerland from June 19-22. He will head overseas with fellow Manufacturing, Engineering and Technology students Michael Greene, Jason Conway and Alfred Sanford.
The foursome won the right after taking top honours at the First Annual Skills Canada National Manufacturing Team Challenge, held at College of the North Atlantic on May 2. Their achievement was only one of the day’s proud moments, as the national competition coincided with the 6th Annual Provincial Skills, Trade and Technology Competitions, which also took place at the college.
Skills Canada Newfoundland and Labrador sponsored the event, which drew 250 high school, post-secondary and apprenticeship students from around the province. The goal was to test and showcase their skills in more than 30 trade and technology competitions.
It was a busy day at the campus. In keeping with its mandate to promote careers in the skilled trades and technologies, Skills Canada Newfoundland and Labrador also mounted its 2nd Annual Provincial Skilled Career Day May 2. More than 850 students turned up at the college to learn about career prospects in trade and technology.
College of the North Atlantic students came up with a sterling effort. As well as taking top spot in the national Manufacturing Team Challenge, they won at all levels of the provincial skills competition. While Jason Sparrow and team will travel to Switzerland, provincial winners will represent Newfoundland and Labrador at the 9th Annual Canadian Skills Competition in Kitchener, Waterloo May 30-31.
For Sparrow and company, it meant working through much of the Easter break to perfect their design for the competition. The group learned around mid-April that their task was to build a solar-powered irrigation pump for an African village, the same project undertaken by their competitors, a team from Nova Scotia.
Instructor Stephen Hicks (Mechanical, Manufacturing and Engineering Technology) explained the requirements.
“The pump had to transfer 300 litres of water from one tank to a holding tank. Once it was there it had to (be able to) irrigate a field, all within one hour.”
Also juggling exams and work terms, the team got down to work.
“We had to build everything,” Sparrow said. “We might have had two weeks to finalize designs, and you have to start from scratch. You have to figure out what kind of pump you’re going to build, there are all kinds of specs to look for. So we built one and tested it and went with that.”
As Michael Greene points out, the process wasn’t hitch-free.
“We worked hard in the design process trying to accommodate everything, but it’s just not possible. You’re going to run into problems. You miscalculate some things and try to change things, and stuff that should have been done wasn’t done. But there were no major problems. We got our pump built and it worked.”
Both teams were required to submit a portfolio that included the design, design calculations, and a manufacturing plan (including the costs of parts and manufacturing). The final estimate – about $4,300 to produce the pump.
When the judges awarded Team Newfoundland and Labrador the gold medal, Jason Conway felt a huge sense of accomplishment.
“The best part of this competition was that we designed this ourselves and everything came together. It’s a big honour that we’re going to be representing Canada,” he said.
Neil Pearcey, an instructor at the college’s Manufacturing Technology Centre, put in a word for the absent Sanford, who handled the instrumentation requirements for the project.
“Part of the criteria for this competition is that the irrigation system needs to be totally automated and controlled, and that’s done through Alfred.”
A proud teacher, Pearcey said that while he didn’t expect the win, he wasn’t surprised.
“I’ve watched these guys through the past two years in their studies and through their work in the shop, and they’re more than capable of competing at a world level,” he said.
The team will compete against five countries in Switzerland – the United Kingdom, Australia, Finland, the Netherlands and Brazil. The competition will mirror what took place at the Skills Canada event, with small changes in terms of battery power and other minor exceptions.
Whatever happens in Switzerland, Stephen Hicks says the national award is already significant for a province not usually associated with manufacturing.
“To have students manufacture a pump in Newfoundland, win at a national level, and compete at an international level… it’s a big deal for us. It means a lot.”
Mark Butt may not get to sample delectable varieties of Swiss chocolate or cheese, but he’s equally thrilled at winning a gold medal in the Automotive Service category of the provincial skills competition – in fact, for the second year in a row. Butt is enrolled in the General Motors Automotive Service Educational Program (ASEP), a co-op program run in conjunction with the college, the provincial Department of Education, and General Motors dealerships across Canada.
Competing against four other students from across Newfoundland and Labrador, Butt had an hour to locate a “bug” placed in a car and provide a repair plan. Students were graded on procedure, safety, handling and care of equipment, and overall customer satisfaction.
For Butt, the win validated the considerable time and effort spent on the course.
“It’s very fulfilling. It shows that all those hours of school and reading and trying to understand schematics and electrical and stuff that you didn’t really like, at the end it paid off,” he said.
He has high praise for the quality of his training at College of the North Atlantic – and for the competency of it instructors.
“The skill level is there.”
ASEP instructor Roger Hart agreed that the fine showing by CNA students is most encouraging.
“It tells you a lot about the calibre of teaching and the message you’re passing on to students,” Hart said.
As tickled as he is to be going to the national skills competition at the end of May, there is a slight issue of timing for Butt. He’s scheduled to be married on the 24th, and heads to Waterloo on the 28th.
“I’m going on a honeymoon, but my wife will be staying here!”
William Scott won’t have the distraction of being newly married when he travels to Ontario. A gold medalist in the Culinary Arts category of the provincial skills contest,
Scott is finishing his apprenticeship in the advanced level course in Culinary Arts at College of the North Atlantic (PPD).
The three competitors in his category had to prepare an appetizer, entrée and dessert. Scott believes his dessert – a fruit composition – brought him the gold, although it was hardly the only thing considered.
“Several things are judged – presentation, workspace, sanitation, the design of your plates, whether you burn anything, because that does happen! They look at things like height, symmetry, taste, obviously, and if the whole meal flows together. Also, just
keeping on task and how you keep yourself composed in the kitchen,” Scott said.
He will compete with as many as 12 in his category in Waterloo, and thinks his best efforts could yield a medal. If he doesn’t win, Scott says he will still have tested his skills at a national level.
He’s quick to credit his training at the college for helping to make him a very good chef.
“The instructors are there to teach and to answer questions. If you want to learn the finer details, they’re qualified and have the experience and willingness to do that if you want to work. This course has helped me to refine the skills I already had, and to add new skills,” Scott said.
That assessment pleases Gerry Crewe, Scott’s instructor at the college.
“He’s very determined and he’s going to do very well in this business. It’s very rewarding and it’s tremendous for the college,” Crewe said.
John Oates echoes Crewe’s satisfaction at the college’s high placing in both competitions. An associate district administrator with CNA’s Engineering Technology Centre (Ridge Road campus), Oates also sits on the provincial board of directors for Skills Canada.
“I think everyone in the college feels a great sense of accomplishment. I’m extremely proud of the students and instructors - and the curriculum. It’s an indication of how strong the college is in delivering these types of programs, particularly skilled trades and technology,” Oates said.
Skills Canada Team Newfoundland and Labrador 2003 will compete in Waterloo on May 30-31.
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Gold medal winners: Team Newfoundland and Labrador