Almost 800 Alberta students headed online this week to bake, weld, carve, and craft their way to the podium as part of a province-wide Skills competition.
The 2022 Skills Canada Alberta virtual competition kicked off April 11. The event, which aims to promote trades careers, will see some 780 high-school students compete in about 30 trades-related challenges online for medals and the chance to advance to nationals. Another 110 post-secondary students will compete in similar events face to face at the Edmonton Expo Centre from May 4 to 5.
Like last year, this year’s high-school events are being held online, as most schools had pandemic-related travel restrictions in place back when Skills Canada Alberta announced this year’s competition, said spokesperson Victoria Anderson. The post-secondary event will be in-person as its participants are adults responsible for their own health.
Participants in this year’s Skills events will complete specified tasks live on camera before a panel of judges, often using materials mailed to them beforehand, Anderson said. Events cover a wide array of trades, including robotics, fashion technology, automotive repair, and hair styling.
Fresh off her third-place finish at the High School Culinary Challenge is Paul Kane’s Seanna Kryger, who was set to have 4.5 hours to craft a filled omelette Florentine with fresh salsa and a pan-fried chicken breast suprême with duchesse potatoes in the Culinary Arts event.
Kryger said she has trained extensively in recent weeks to perfect these dishes at her home kitchen, crafting each about a dozen times for her family.
“We end up freezing a lot of it because it’s so much food.”
While the chicken can be difficult, as she plans to customize it with a special filling, Kryger said the omelette will likely be the most difficult part of this year’s contest.
“It’s such a short cooking time,” she said.
“If you let it cook for 30 seconds too long, it may not work.”
Another handicap is Kryger’s active case of COVID-19, which has seen her isolated at home and banned from the kitchen for about a week. She said she had hoped to squeeze in some practice before her event on April 12, but was also prepared to compete from home.
Joining Kryger at Skills is fellow Paul Kane chef Anke Jacobs, who took second place at the recent High School Culinary Challenge. On April 14, she will have six hours to craft two identical Tangzhong breads, a Roaring 20s-themed bar cake, and 10 identical decorated sugar cookies as part of the baking challenge.
Jacobs said she plans to model her cake after a frilly flapper dress with lots of pearls and lace. She sees time management as her biggest challenge in this contest.
“There’s so many components to it,” she said, and an extremely tight schedule to meet.
Sturgeon Composite student Tegan Nikoleychuk was set to have six hours on April 11 with which to assemble a model ferryboat as part of the welding competition.
Nikoleychuk said she got into welding after she learned to weld her initials onto a nameplate during an open house at Sturgeon Composite. Now, she hopes to see the world as an underwater welder.
“I’ve never seen the ocean in my life,” she said, and she figures this will be a job that will take her places.
Nikoleychuk said she has put in many hours of practice in recent weeks to prepare for provincials.
“Everything has to be almost perfect or better than perfect,” she said, or else the finished pieces won’t fit together.
Nikoleychuk said she had not settled on a name for the boat she will build this week, but was thinking of something along the lines of “Francis.”
Jacobs encourages other students to enter Skills competitions.
“It’s such a great learning opportunity,” she said.
“The pressure it gives me keeps pushing me to do my best.”
The Skills Canada Alberta competition runs from April 11 to May 5, with most events happening April 11 to 14. Winners will be announced in an online ceremony May 6. Visit skillsalberta.com for details.