Skills Canada can set career course

by Derek Neary- March 11, 2018

On April 29, scores of eager Nunavummiut will descend on Iqaluit to compete in the 13th annual territorial skills competition In Iqaluit.

Samuel Kuluguqtuq was Nunavut’s top cabinetmaker at Skills Canada territorials last year. He has moved on to Algonquin College in Ontario, where he is enrolled in the first year of a two-year carpentry and renovation technician program. Photo courtesy of Will Hopkins

Hosted by Skills Canada Nunavut, the youth – high school level and beyond – will exhibit their talents in a variety of areas including photography, cooking, public speaking and robotics.

Among last year’s crop of competitors was Iqaluit’s Sam Kuluguqtuq, who won the gold medal in cabinetmaking. Kuluguqtuq, now a student in Algonquin College’s carpentry and renovation technician program in Perth, Ont., said that during the competition he stood in front of a table full of building supplies and was given his instructions and time limit. He chose to put together a gun rack, which took him most of the day, although he finished an hour before deadline. He wound up with a mark of 97 per cent.

“He (the judge) said everything was perfect except for one of the sides was off by a couple of millimetres,” Kuluguqtuq recalled, adding that the gun rack now hangs in his family’s cabin.

Prevailing in his category meant he advanced to the national skills competition, which was held in late May and early June in Winnipeg. There were many more competitors in Manitoba’s capital – upwards of 20 in his category – and a lot more equipment there, he recalled.

“Everything was way more intense,” Kuluguqtuq said. “It was crowded … you feel more pressure because everybody’s watching you.”

In addition, Kuluguqtuq’s chisel broke, which slowed him down and he never quite completed the project.

“My cabinet didn’t go the way I wanted it to,” he said, adding that he didn’t let the hurdles ruin his day. “Overall it was a very good, well-organized competition. In general it was a very good experience doing all these different things.”

Kuluguqtuq has an uncle in Pangnirtung who owns a carpentry and construction business.

“I think being in the woodshop and working with wood in general got me into carpentry,” he said, adding that Janis Devereaux, executive director with Skills Canada Nunavut, encouraged him to take a shot at the Skills Canada competition last year. He said he plans to compete in the post-secondary level at Skills Canada this year.

Kuluguqtuq has been working on a house in the first year of his two-year college carpentry program.

“That’s given me more of a hands-on experience along the way,” he said.

Making engines purr

MichaelAngelo Kunnuk of Pond Inlet is largely self-taught in the art of fixing engines. He became proficient enough at repairing the components to win the outdoor engine repair category at last year’s Skills Canada territorials.

Since age 11, he has been honing his skills, primarily by working on snowmobiles, but he also dabbles in boat motors and all-terrain vehicles. His aunt’s husband has given him some pointers over the years too.

“When I look at it, I know right away what the problem is. I don’t really use the instructions,” Kunnuk said.

He envisions himself in a career where he can put those skills to work.

“After I graduate I’m trying to become a red-seal mechanic,” said Kunnuk, who is in Grade 12.

At the Skills Canada Nunavut competition, he worked on pull-start and secondary-clutch motors, neither of which posed any problems for him, he said.

At nationals, he admitted to being nervous as he tackled engines from a snowmobile, a motorcycle, a two-stroke engine and a generator. While in Winnipeg for nationals, he picked up tips in making measurements and working with pistons and cylinder bores – skills that can help him in the future.

In addition to the annual territorial skills competition, Skills Canada Nunavut holds career fairs and after-school skills clubs, participates in trade shows, pays visits to schools and holds workshops, and promotes National Trades and Technology Week.

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