École Secondaire Notre Dame Grade 12 student Eric Koster recently beat out competitors in the National Skills Canada competition for gold in his category of secondary electrical installation.
Since Koster won gold, if he is able to do the same next year at a post-secondary level, he will be sent to Abu Dhubai, United Arab Emirates for an international competition. He swept golds in his category for Regional and Provincial competitions for two years in a row.
“I really like just seeing the finished product, and knowing that you did a good job. It’s so satisfying. Another thing is with the circuitry, because you can’t really label wires that well, when the item finally turns on you know you did it right. It’s like all the pieces in the puzzle come together,” Koster said.
“The main reason I decided to try for Skills again this year was because last year I went through to provincials and I wanted to do it again. I needed a bit more training so I apprenticed over the summer and did some work training after school this year.
“It ended up working out pretty well for me.”
Skills competitions consist of various trade and technology categories in which secondary and post-secondary students compete to finish tasks in an allotted amount of time. The events occur regionally, provincially, nationally and internationally to promote youths in trade and technology fields.
In national competitions like the one Koster competed in, over 500 students from across Canada are present, with over 40 categories.
The goal of the competitions is to provide a hands-on, practical experience and to raise awareness of the trade and technology fields in the community.
For Koster, provincials were seemingly easy, but he rose to the challenge of the national competition and came out on top.
“For provincials, what they do is give you an empty three-sided booth, with a workspace that extends out. In the booth, you have to put up a panel, wire some residential things and some commercial things – that’s where the conduit comes in. It wasn’t that hard, and way easier than nationals,” Koster explained.
“At nationals, they gave us the same time limit as provincials, but with double the workload so it got a little rushed near the end. We did the panels, a heater and a four-way switch, which is a bit of a step up. It’s not that complicated. For the boxes, there is only one way you can do it and you can’t go over your wire cells, and a lot of kids went over their wire cells because they didn’t take the time to figure it out.”
He said although there is pressure, he felt confident because once he got into his work he maintained a focus. As well, Koster had the previous experience of grabbing the gold at provincials last year, so there was confidence in his work.
Koster said one of his biggest inspirations is his teacher, Mr. Leigh Smithson.
“My teacher probably influenced me the most. He put a lot of effort into making his class fun and trying to get kids to participate. It was really hands-on, there wasn’t a lot of book work in comparison to most classes. He really understood what he was teaching, and we weren’t just reading about it or watching him do tasks. That helped a lot.”
If Koster is able to reach the national level competition next year, and is successful in placing first in his category, he will be invited to travel to Abu Dhubai for an International Skills World Competition.
In the event Koster is successful, he would receive approximately $100,000 for international travel to three countries for competition training, as well as a personal instructor for a year to help him develop his understanding of European electrical standards.
“The thing is, if you’re going to worlds it’s all European, so you have to do 240 volts, instead of 120. The international standard is European, so you’ve got to learn all the European codes and how their stuff works because it’s all in different voltage. You’re switching would be different – it’s interesting. Your wire sizes and everything are different.”
Currently, Koster is working towards his apprenticeship. He hopes to attend Red Deer College next year to complete the apprenticeship and receive his journeyman ticket for his trade.