The Yukon’s results at a recent Canadian Skills Competition are “statistically impossible,” says Dan Curtis, executive director of Skills Canada in the Yukon.
Still, the impossible became reality.
With a team of 19, the Yukon contestants managed to bring home six medals from the national competition held may 20-23 in Charlottetown, PEI.
“They use the highest industry standards in every competition they have,” said Curtis. “Competition is fierce—it truly is the Olympics of trades and technology.”
Although Whitehorse’s Denis Godin, 17, brought home the territory’s first gold medal in 11 years of competing, teammate Molly Jenney, 31, also from Whitehorse, is sharing the spotlight.
“She kicked Quebec’s ass; I mean, nobody beats Quebec,” said Curtis. “Quebec spends so much on training and insuring success.”
The only woman competing in the sheet metalwork category, Jenney took home a silver medal, making her the only woman from the territory to ever bring home hardware.
“Quebec was trying to psych me out a bit,” said Jenney. “They won the gold last year and they have technical schools that they send their people to—a lot of the people from down south have a coach there with them and their teams are huge.
“I knew from the beginning that I would have to block everybody out and just focus on my project. The Quebec coach was standing next to my bench throughout almost the whole competition just staring at me. Every time I looked up he would there hovering over me. It was weird.”
In the competition, Jenney had to build a small lighthouse—the same as her competition—out of copper, brass, steel and glass.
Participants were judged on the final product, as well as on time and materials used.
She scored 887 points out of 1,000, just 11 points behind gold-medal finisher Christian Seaman, from Salmon Creek, New Brunswick.
Jenney, who has a fine arts degree from Guelph University, currently works at Duncan’s Limited, a business that has seen two other Skills Canada medalists over the last two years.
Not only does she regard Duncan Limited’s support for the Skills Canada program as a source of her success, Jenney finds the diversity of her work gave her a leg up on the competition.
“A lot of people down south end up working in larger shops, so their job that they do on a regular basis might be more narrow because of the population in the South,” said Jenney. “You might work for a large shop that makes stainless steel sinks and all you do is lay out sinks all day. In the North, we have a lot of demand for metalwork, but a lower population, so in a shop like Duncan’s they end up being more versatile.
“Duncan’s shop is probably one of the best in Canada for what their capabilities are.”
Aside from Jenney and Godin, Yukon tradespeople brought home an additional four bronze medals, with Fletcher Smith for plumbing, Cody Lefler for carpentry, Nathan Peterson for heavy equipment services and Jeffery Brewster, who last year won a silver in the same event, for car painting. Godin’s gold medal was won in mechanical CADD.
“Everybody in Canada is just humming, ‘What’s going on in the Yukon?” said Curtis.
“Quite often what they do, and it’s sad but realistic, is have disciplines out there for the provinces and territories that don’t typically medal. They’ll be (categories) like prepared speech or job interview or worksite safety or restaurant service. Typically the have-not provinces and territories will go for those and everybody else goes, ‘Let them have those.’
“We’ve turned the corner, so everyone we send has relevance to the Yukon and the Canadian economy. That means trades and technologies that are true trades, not stuff manufactured to win a medal.”
The recent medal haul sets the Yukon total count at 20, one of which is coming from Karl Loos, who will be the first Yukoner to represent Canada at the World Skills Competition being held in Calgary this September.
Jenney hopes her example will encourage other women to get involved in trades.
“It’s not impossible for women to do this kind of work,” said Jenney. “I’ve heard people say women make up 10 per cent of the trades workforce, but I don’t know if I buy that—you really don’t see the numbers.
“There are places in town where (women) can go and talk to people if they are interested at looking at the trades.
“It is a very challenging and rewarding career for women to choose. The trades are not just for dummies; I think that’s a big misconception. I know from experience that my job involves a lot of math and it’s very challenging.”
“The fact is what Molly did was unbelievable,” said Curtis. “For what she’s done for women in trades, for the Yukon, she really, truly put us on the map.
“I think that’s one of the biggest things to happen in our 11 years (of competing).”
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com