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They’ve got the skills

SAIT competitors train to best the rest at the Skills Canada National Competition
SAIT competitors train to best the rest at the Skills Canada National Competition

Washes of pink and gold streak over the downtown skyline as Taylor Desjardins arrives on SAIT’s campus. The crisp evening air is jarring, but Taylor is used to it. As part of his training schedule, he leaves work three days a week, travels to campus, and works on his craft as the sun goes down.

The shop lights blink to life and Taylor brushes a thin layer of sawdust from a half-built cabinet. He’s readying for competition by perfecting the minute details that could help him win a top spot at Skills in Cabinetmaking.

Fierce competitors

Taylor joins Alexander Wilkinson and Laine Van Hardeveld, both competing in Mechatronics, along with Cassidy Lindseth and Jordin Dittmer, competing in Refrigeration and Bricklaying. The SAIT students hope to place in the Skills Canada National Competition in Halifax, NS, May 28 and 29 and earn a spot on Team Canada at WorldSkills in Russia, Aug. 22 - 27. Competitors from more than 60 countries will compete in 56 skills for the chance to claim the title of best-of-the-best in their field.

Getting there takes SAIT competitors hundreds of hours of training and combing through the details with their coaches — who are also SAIT instructors.

“After completing a project, my instructor and coach, Harold Bergmann, and I go through it piece by piece — picking apart each individual deficiency so I can do it better next time,” says Taylor. “Harold has been a tremendous stepping stone to a whole new level of cabinetmaking. If not for him, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Bridging skill gaps

The foundation of WorldSkills is to inspire, develop and influence, and Desjardins sees these values in real-time during competitions.

“The thing that has impacted me most on my journey would have to be the friendships you make along the way. The connections to people around the world are just astonishing.”

Those connections continue at home too. Alexander Wilkinson’s involvement in Skills directly resulted in him landing a job in industry.

“My coach, Dan Barrett, knew what my capabilities were and got me an interview with my current employer, and my exposure to different technologies through Skills meant that I was ready to tackle a variety of real-world problems. Mechatronics is a fast-paced industry and being able to handle the changing demands is a very valuable skill,” says Alexander.

The road to Russia

Team SAIT will join the country’s best in Halifax to challenge each other and see who comes out on top. Our five Team Canada prospects, if successful at Nationals, would resume intense training schedules — working with their coaches for upwards of 20 hours a week. All of this time and dedication takes competitors one step closer to the biggest skills competition in the world.

Just the experience of travelling to Russia and showcasing all his hard work would be incredibly rewarding, says Alexander.

“Being challenged on a daily basis has helped me become a better programmer, and getting to show what I’ve learned on a global stage would be a dream. And when I came home, I’d continue to apply those skills to grow my career. SAIT and Skills has given me the chance to succeed.”

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SAIT students and alumni compete on local, national and world stages. From the classroom to the top of the podium, a SAIT education takes you places.

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