This is the first of a four-part series of articles on previous Skills Canada medal winners in recognition of National Skilled Trades and Technology Week Nov. 6-12, 2017.
ST. JOHN’S, NL –
The smell of sawdust and the roar of power tools may not come to mind when you think of creating art, but for Justin Bennett, these familiar sights and sounds are all a part of his craft.
With a bronze under his belt from WorldSkills Americas in 2013, as well as two national silver medals from Skills Canada, it is no wonder Bennett is at home in the shop, creating beautiful hand-crafted cabinets and furniture from raw materials.
Reaching that level of success didn’t happen overnight. However, Bennett says he believes being an internationally recognized cabinetmaker has paid off him, and made it easy to gain employment in his field.
Bennett was lucky to discover his love of woodwork while still in high school, where even then his focus and dedication stood out. He competed in the Skills Canada competition for the first time at the provincial level while still in high school, where he walked away with a silver medal. While he didn’t advance to the nationals, he knew he had found the career for him and honed his skills in the cabinetmaker program at College of the North Atlantic (CNA).
His raw talent and work ethic stood out to instructor Kelly Tompkins right away, and Bennett was selected to represent CNA on the national stage for Skills Canada three times. He walked away with silver medals in hand twice from the competitions, and was even selected to represent Canada on the international stage.
Bennett has a quiet confidence and level of patience, which is evident in his work. But if you ask him about his skills he’s very modest, never dreaming the program at CNA would take him so far.
“It’s hard to describe the feeling,” Bennett said of taking the bronze medal at WorldSkills Americas. “It was nice to see the months and years of work pay off and to be recognized that way, but I didn’t think I would go so far.”
He says when he applied to the Cabinetmaker program it was to see if he could take something he loved and turn it into a career.
“I only took the course because I thought it was a career I would enjoy. I never realized it could take me to the national competitions and then to Brazil.”
Once Bennett becomes involved in a project, he says he tunes out everything, and as a result, competing on the national and international stage was easy for him. When it came time to find employment at the end of the program, Bennett had no trouble finding work, as his numerous medals helped him stand out.
That ability to be so focused translates well into his job at Class Woodworks in Paradise, NL, where he has been employed for the past five years. His employer is proud of Bennett’s accomplishments and constantly praises his skills and numerous medals to customers.
“I’ve always had a good experience with Skills Canada. It gives you a good chance to show off your skills, and learn a few different things along the way,” Bennett said. “It certainly helps your resume. When I went to look for work, I mentioned (the award wins) to my employers and that was a good bonus for me.”
What’s next for Bennett?
“I plan to stick around here for a while and maybe down the road do my own thing - maybe start my own shop. For now I have no plans of moving on. I have always wanted to open up a shop, but that will be down the road a ways.”
National Skills Trades and Technology Week kicks off on Monday, Nov. 6. For more information about CNA’s Cabinetmaker program visit www.cna.nl.ca.
Public Relations Specialist
College of the North Atlantic