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St. Albert carpenter wins gold at Skills nationals

“Still sinking in,” says Oake
NATIONAL CHAMP — St. Albert carpenter Nicolas Oake displays the gold provinicial, national, and Best of Region medals he won in recent months at the 2024 Skills Canada Provincial and National Competitions, the latter of which was May 30-31. Oake won gold in the carpentry competition at the 2024 nationals. He is shown here working on a deck in St. Albert. KEVIN MA/St. Albert Gazette

St. Albert is now home to Canada’s top student carpenter.

St. Albert resident and Northern Alberta Institute of Technology graduate Nicolas Oake, 23, won gold in the post-secondary carpentry event at the 2024 Skills Canada National Competition in Québec City held last May 30-31. He also won the $1,500 RBC Best of Region Award at the event for having the highest overall score on Team Alberta.

The national competition saw about 500 of the top high-school and post-secondary tradespersons in Canada compete in more than 40 trades-related areas, including baking, mechatronics, and cloud computing. Winners took home medals and (in some cases) scholarships.

The 62 members of Team Alberta did extremely well at nationals, taking home medals in 36 of the 57 events they entered, said Skills Canada Alberta spokesperson Victoria Anderson.

“We’re just super-proud of our competitors and their teachers and trainers for putting on the best representation possible for Alberta.”

Born carpenter

Oake, a graduate of St. Albert Catholic High, said he grew up helping his family with construction projects around the house, and even helped build a corner of his grandfather’s deck at age five.

“It was a weird corner of the deck, and I just found a lot of scrap pieces on the ground and managed to fit them all in like a jigsaw puzzle,” he explained, adding that his grandpa later nailed the pieces in place.

Oake said he competed in Skills in high school but never made it past the regional qualifiers. His instructors at NAIT encouraged him to take another swing at it. He placed seventh, fourth, and second at provincials before taking first this year to advance to nationals.

“I’ve always just had a knack for it,” he said of carpentry.

Oake said being at nationals was awesome, and described Québec City as the most beautiful place he had ever seen. He got to visit the Québec Aquarium and Old Québec during his time there.

Oake said the carpentry event required participants to build a full-sized wooden playhouse in just 12 hours using limited tools. He said the competition was stressful at first, as went into it with about four hours of sleep, but he found his groove after lunch.

“I actually didn’t finish,” he said, running out of time at the 95 per cent completion mark.

Oake said he just about lost his mind when he learned he got the gold ahead of his opponents from B.C. and Ontario, both of whom completed their playhouses. He suspects his millimetre-level accuracy put him over the top.

“It’s still sinking in,” he said of his win.

Oake said he got a lot of congratulatory high-fives when he returned to his job at DKI Sparklean Restorations in St. Albert. His prize money will go toward new tools, while the win should look good on his resumé. He thanked SACHS shop teacher Dean Neumeier, NAIT Skills coach Brian Paradis, and Mike Howes of DKI Sparklean for their support.

Howes said it’s been “kind of shocking” to see Oake’s skill as a carpenter grow over the six years he’s been with DKI Sparklean.

“He wants to be the best. I wish I had 50 of him.”

Oake encouraged other students to give Skills a shot.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn something new.”

The results of the Skills Canada national competition are available at

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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