By Thomas Scott
Former Eastern Shore District High (ESDH) student Curtis Pettipas won a silver medal for his skills in electrical installations at the 2022 Skills Canada National Competition in Vancouver at the end of May.
Pettipas is no stranger to the Skills Canada National Competition. In grade 10, he struggled in his first appearance at the 2017 Skills Canada National Competition in Winnipeg. But only two years later, still competing in the secondary schools category, he won a gold metal for electrical installations at the 2019 Skills Canada National Competition in Halifax.
In Vancouver, Pettipas stepped up into the more competitive post-secondary category, going up against a much more experienced field. Electrical installations in skills competitions involve electricians who install, repair, and maintain wiring, switches, conduits, circuit breakers, lighting and other apparatus in buildings and other structures. To be successful in the competition, competitors need electronics knowledge and trouble-shooting skills to provide maintenance services for electronically controlled systems, with proficiency being a key factor.
Pettipas said Skills Canada gives competitors a list of plans with a set of specifications, and competitors have to build and install everything neatly and safely to specification and code. Keeping a clean workspace and ensuring safety are significant factors during the competition.
Pettipas got started in skills competition with the help of ESDH Options and Opportunities (02) lead Natalie Stevens. The O2 program is a three-year-long program which helps students find a path for career choices, including community connections and authentic learning experiences.
“I never knew about it [skills competition] until she brought it up,” Pettipas said in an interview. “As far as I can remember, I think she kind of forced me into it. If it wasn't for her, I don't think I'd be close to where I am today, that's for sure. Learning wise, she was pretty good in her teaching aspects of getting me to step out of my comfort zone and check out these different styles, different things.”
Stevens told the Cooperator that she encouraged students to participate in the skills competition, because it looked good on their resumes, and students enjoyed the experience.
“When I'm trying to get them to sign up, I say to students that I've never taken a student to any skills competition, even ones where they've struggled, that they didn't enjoy the process,” Stevens said.
“It's a real motivator, because they're meeting outside people who are now enjoying working with them and supporting them,” Stevens said. “We were able to get Curtis some guidance from a retired skilled trade teacher [Mark Wilkes] here, who worked with him over three years for each time he did the competition. It was a really great way for him to learn more, and the more he learned, the more he wanted to know.’
Pettipas said by going to the skills competitions, he met many people with different ways of performing. “I would have my own way of doing something, and then Newfoundland would have their way, and BC would have their way,” Pettipas said. “It's just a phenomenal experience to get out to Nationals. You meet so many people, you make so many friends and so many great memories.”