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WEIMA June 2023 Leader
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Skills competitions open eyes

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WMC by Richard Lipman
Richard Lipman is president of the Wood Manufacturing Council. For more info email
The Wood Manufacturing Council was pleased to promote the woodworking sector and highlight our career opportunities at this year’s Skills Ontario Competition and Career Exploration Showcase. WMC was a Bronze Level Sponsor at this year’s event, which was held in-person for the first time since 2019. While the virtual showcases held in 2021 and 2022, were better than having no show at all during the COVID period, the ability to see and speak to people directly is a much richer experience and allows the information and messaging to come across so much better.
  The Skills Ontario Competition is Canada’s largest skilled trade and technology competition. It hosts more than 2,400 competitors in grades 4 to apprenticeship-level and more than 38,000 visitors. Concurrently, Skills Ontario hosts the largest Young Women’s Conference in Canada with 2,000 participants over two days. They also hosted their first in-person Young Women’s Conference in French and they continue to build collaboration and outreach with indigenous communities and were pleased to host their First Nations, Metis and Inuit (FNMI) student conference and a new Guidance Educator conference.   
As is the case with the competitions in all provinces, the event provides a wealth of information on skilled trades to students. The first day of the program was for elementary schools and the second day was for high school and post-secondary students. If students have an interest in skilled trades, this is the place to be, and if they are not familiar with skilled trades, this is certainly the event to attend to be exposed to so many skilled trades at one time. This amazing event and competition attracts a significant number of educators, faculty members, and industry trades professionals of all types. It was a great informational and networking opportunity for all involved in promoting skilled trades and technologies. The Career Exploration Showcase, with more than 20, 000 sq. ft. of exhibit and competition space, saw more than 70 businesses, colleges, apprenticeship programs, unions and government programs set up booths, hand out items and offer experiential activities related to the skilled trades and technologies. This year, the Wood Manufacturing Council collaborated with Forests Ontario and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative’s Project Learning Tree in our booth, to promote careers and opportunities across the wood value-chain.  
Skills/Compétences Canada and its member organizations in each of the 13 provinces and territories work with employers, educators, labour groups and governments to promote skilled trade and technology careers to Canadian youth. Competitors are school-age and must meet criteria in the current school year, they must register as a competitor with their Provincial Skills competition organization.
This is done through a variety of programming and competitions each year, all with the goal of providing hands on, informative, interesting and educational information to youth. National Skills Competitions offer a unique opportunity for top students to demonstrate that they are the best in their field and student competitors get to impress their educators, family, friends, and prospective employers. The top competitors in the country are then invited to represent Canada at the World Skills competition, an international event hosted by WorldSkills International, which is attended by competitors from some 80 member countries and regions. This year the Skills Canada National Competition is in Winnipeg, Manitoba May 24 – May 27 and the World Skills Competition is slated for Lyon, France in September.  
The Wood Manufacturing Council was at the show again this year to promote the woodworking sector to students and the many great career opportunities in the sector. Making more people aware of our sector and expand the pool of potential workers for the value-added wood products industry is important and we were pleased to join the college and high school teachers at the event to encourage students to consider our sector.   Armed with information for both teachers and students, we were pleased to converse with a huge number of attendees over two days. Students were interested in learning about the varied career options and skills needs and to see that our industries have employment opportunities available. At the booth, students and teachers were also able to learn about the educational pathways to careers in wood, as we had literature from the various Ontario college woodworking programs at our booth.  We informed people about the sector’s job board  
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry loaned us their Forestry Heavy Equipment Simulator for the kids to try out some technology and we had a series of carved ducks, so people could test out their wood species identification skills. WMC showcased some classroom-made projects, such as a beautifully handmade nightstand and other interesting furniture items.            
Several years ago, Skills Ontario approached the WMC to identify a judge for their CNC competition. Robert Aucoin, a now-retired teacher from the Ottawa Carleton District School Board, who helps us promote our WoodLINKS program, agreed to volunteer and continues to judge the high school CNC competition today. We were very pleased to be associated with both the Cabinetmaking and the CNC competition, which had 17 entries this year.   
It was great to see so many people in person again and to see the future workforce, the provincial finalists, working hard on their projects. A great deal of care and effort is provided by the judges and the college and high school teachers to support and encourage the competitors to prepare for their competitions, and as always, the suppliers are there to assist in making the competitions happen. It was a very interesting and busy few days.

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