The Skills Ontario Competition was held May 1-3 at the Toronto Congress Centre. Now in its 28th year, the SOC is an opportunity for students of all ages to learn about and explore numerous skilled trade and technology schooling and career options. From animation and baking to welding and workplace safety, plus a varied multitude of choices in between, the hope is that many students can gain valuable insight into their futures. “It gives them a new respect and awareness for careers in skills trades,” says Gail Smyth, executive director, Skills Ontario. This year’s event drew over 20,000 spectators to watch approximately 2,100 students compete in over 68 skills contests.
The SOC is a key event for Skills Ontario, a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of the skilled trades and technologies as viable, first-choice career options to Ontario youth. Along with the support of many partners, the organization offers many opportunities for students to become informed and engaged in the exciting world of skilled trades and technologies through initiatives such as in-school presentations, camps and skills competitions such as the SOC.
For elementary school participants from grades four to eight, competing students are given the opportunity to apply their knowledge of math, science, and technology in a fun way while providing the opportunity for them to make the connection between what they are learning in school and possible careers in skilled trades and technologies. This year’s competition categories included animation, construction, green energy and LEGO robotics.
The secondary and post-secondary contests reflect various technical occupational paths and typically include both practical and theoretical components. Also included in the contest grading is a job interview component which represents five per cent of the final mark. This is intended to help competitors understand that in addition to the obvious trade and technical skills required in their fields of interest, that interpersonal skills are also very important in preparing for eventual job searches. Students are expected to come to the competition with a prepared resume and be ready to answer interview questions about their contest field.
The experiences gained through this event are invaluable in giving students confidence by allowing them to gain “experience, the growth of their understanding of their abilities and possible job opportunities and understanding what their future pathways can hold,” explained Jennifer Parrington, technological education facilitator, Durham District School Board. The DDSB team of 39 secondary students was proud to leave the competition with five medals and look forward to growing on their success at next year’s SOC.
A special event within the 3-day competition is the Career Exploration Showcase which allows students to visit with over 70 exhibitors who offer hands-on, interactive display booths. The showcase gives students to explore and research the many possible career and education opportunities that are available to them.
Also part of the SOC agenda, the “Think Skills…Think Future!” Young Women’s Conference introduced young women in grades 7 – 12 to careers in the skilled trades and technologies through hands-on activities, inspirational guest speakers and invaluable networking with female role models who work in the skilled trades and technologies.
For information: skillsontario.com.
Photo: Durham District School Board students proudly display their medals at Skills Ontario Competition closing ceremony May 3.