Calgarian wins gold at national skills competition, encourages others to consider careers in trades

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WATCH: A 15-year-old Calgary student has won a gold medal at the Skills Canada National competition. His big win is highlighting the need for more students to pursue careers in trades. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, there are shortages that are expected to get worse – Jun 10, 2022

Antonio Duarte has a knack for taking things apart and putting them back together.

The Grade 10 student at Bishop O’Byrne High School in Calgary recently won a gold medal in the automobile technology competition at the Skills Canada National Competition.

“I just enjoy building and taking apart things — it’s just like an escape for me,” Duarte said.

Among other things, he was required to dismantle shocks, brakes and steering components and put them back together as well as do an electrical diagnosis.

“It was kind of stressful,” the 15-year-old football player said. “I thought there were a couple of things I was going to do wrong — like, I still can’t stand transmissions.”

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His mechanics teacher said Duarte is a great student with a gift for mechanical reasoning.

“It was just a matter of fine-tuning him to be ready for the competition,” said Chis Yeo, a mechanics teacher at Bishop O’Byrne High School.

Duarte also scored top spot in a provincial competition before he headed off to compete nationally.

“It was a big surprise when he got the gold,” Yeo said. “(It’s) probably (a) once-in-a-career moment to have a student place on the national stage.

“It’s important to have kids go into skilled trades. Cars don’t fix themselves. Elevators don’t fix themselves. We’re going to need the next generation of kids stepping up to make these things work.”

An official at SAIT said there’s been a 40 per cent increase in new apprentice registrants in the trades in Alberta over this time last year, of which welding seems to be leading the charge.

Jim Szautner, SAIT’S vice-president of academics, said there is a high demand for people who can repair recreational vehicles and who have various skills in construction.

“We have also seen our carpenters are faring fairly well in terms of demand, and also when we look at pipe trades, which is a combination of plumbers, steamfitters and pipefitters,” Szautner said.

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Read more: NAIT and SAIT presidents part of Alberta task force for skilled trades

Trades and related occupations are expected to face labour shortages over the next 10 years based on Alberta’s Occupational Demand and Supply Outlook.

According to figures from the province, this year the shortages are estimated to be about 8,000 and are expected to increase to over 18,000 jobs in 2025.

“Alberta’s government is committed to listening to the needs of Alberta employers and to addressing challenges, including labour shortages in the trades, as our economy rebounds,” said Roy Dallmann, press secretary for Alberta’s labour and immigration minister.

In a statement, Dallmann said the Alberta at Work initiative will help workers develop new skills and attract entrepreneurs and students from around the world.

Alberta Jobs Now investments in job creation and training will offer employees in-demand skills, according to Dallmann. The program began accepting applications June 3, 2022. It will support employers to hire skilled tradespeople among other professions.

As for Duarte, he said his dream job is to become an elevator technician.

“They are kind of interesting to me and it’s taken a lot to get to where they are now,” he said. “It would be interesting to work on them.”

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Duarte is encouraging other students to consider careers in trades.

“I’d say go for it because it’s more interesting than just sitting in an office and doing constant paperwork. Just being able to work with your hands and taking things apart.”

Trades in demand in Alberta, according to 2022 labour market analysis done by the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, are automotive service technician, carpenter, cook, millwright, painter/decorator and welder.

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