Zachary Van Boeyen, a student at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) School of Construction and the Environment, struck gold twice recently.
In April 2023, Van Boeyen was awarded a Gold Medal in the Automation and Control (Electrical) category at the Skills Canada BC competition.
And a few weeks later he won Gold in the industrial controls category at the Skills Canada national competition.
“I was happy and shocked to win,” said Van Boeyen. “The competition was very stiff and it went right down to the wire.”
Van Boeyen and the other competitors in his section had to build, wire and program a simulated control system for an arena jumbotron.
In B.C. there were four competitors and at the nationals there were eight.
The competitors at both events were given the same task to complete, but the national competition took place over two days instead of one, and the tasks the students were required to complete had a few new wrinkles thrown in that made them more difficult.
“The main difference was that at the nationals we had to build the whole thing from scratch over two days, whereas at the provincial competition some of the components came already assembled,” said Van Boeyen.
The Skills Canada BC competition took place at the Tradex Trade and Exhibition Centre in Abbotsford. The national event was held at the Canada Life Centre in Winnipeg.
Van Boeyen’s first place finish at the nationals makes him eligible to compete in the 47th WorldSkills Competition, which takes place over four days in Lyon, France in September 2024.
Clarence Burlock, an instructor in BCIT Construction’s electrical department, said Van Boeyen enrolled in two courses in the automated controller installation and maintenance program to prepare for the competition.
“Zach learned programmable logic controllers and installation, which is at the higher end of difficulty,” said Burlock.
He said Van Boeyen benefits in several ways from winning the competition.
“It’s a great confidence booster, and it gives him some valuable experience,” Burlock said. “He also gets some extra training preparing for the competitions, and it certainly will look good on his resume.”
Dave Dunn, associate dean of BCIT’s Construction and the Environment, said the faculty had provincial medal winners in joinery, sheet metal and electrical in 2023.
In addition to Van Boeyen, the winners were Eric Wu and Sebastian Afshar, who won Silver and Bronze, respectively, in Automation and Control (Electrical), and Brandon Vangool, who won Gold in the Sheet Metal competition.
“Competition makes the students aware of the actual difficulty of the trades,” said Dunn. “They learn that workplace experience is important, in addition to academic knowledge and basic competence with the tools.”
The organizer of the provincial competition in Abbotsford is Skills Canada BC, a non-profit that promotes careers in the skilled trades and technologies to youth in the province.
Director of competitions Jamie Maxwell said the organization gets the word out by hosting 13 regional competitions in February and March in Terrace, Prince George, Dawson Creek, Kamloops, Kelowna, Chilliwack, Surrey, Courtney/Comox, Nanaimo, Victoria, Richmond/Maple Ridge, Vancouver and Cranbrook.
Universities, colleges, school districts and middle and high schools from the four corners of the province are all represented.
“We have competitions for three age groups: Junior Skills (Grades 6 to 9), Secondary and Post-Secondary,” said Maxwell. “Not eligible to compete is anyone holding a trade qualification or a Red Seal or who is a journeyperson.”
Maxwell said the 2023 provincial competition was the first event since the pandemic.
“There were 380 competitors this year, compared to 650 who took part in the 2019 competition, the last one before COVID-19,” said Maxwell.
Michelle Skelly, Skills Canada BC acting executive director, said 2024 will be the 30th anniversary of the provincial competition, which is set for April 17 at Tradex.
“We’re planning some special events to mark the occasion, and we’re expecting more competitors next year, as we gradually get out from under COVID-19,” said Skelly.