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Skills & Knowledge

Cambrian trades student brings home the gold

September 1, 2009
by Adelle Larmour
In: Skills & Knowledge with 0 Comments

David Smart, a heavy equipment technician student at Cambrian College in Sudbury has won a gold medal at the Ontario Technological Skills Competition (OTSC).

The OTSC has provided a venue for more than 1,500 Ontario elementary, secondary, post-secondary and apprenticeship students to compete in 60 skilled trades and technology events since 1989. The 2009 competition was hosted by Skills Canada and held in Waterloo in May.

“It raises awareness of the importance of excellence and quality of workmanship, which is important in any trade,” said Robert Huzij, co-ordinator for the Heavy Equipment Technician and apprenticeship programs at Cambrian.

In preparation for the provincial competition, a regional competition was held at Cambrian. Thirty-six students competed for two positions. They all wrote a 100-question exam and performed skills in each of the six disciplines: engines, fuel, electrical, hydraulics, trades practices and drive train (transmissions/differentials).

Six students from four colleges competed at the OTSC. The competition required the students to troubleshoot a problem and perform a skill in a prescribed format and time. They were evaluated on each part of the process. 

“The mark is based on a specific order in which you troubleshoot the problem,” Smart said. An example was an electrical problem on a skid steer loader that prevented it from starting. With schematics in hand, he traced the problem back to the starter relay.

Smart said the hydraulic section threw him off a bit because he overlooked a simple thing during the troubleshooting process.

After participating in the provincial competition, Smart continued on to the national level held in Prince Edward Island, where he placed fourth. Smart graduated from the Heavy Equipment Technician program this past spring. He will complete his co-op placement and, eventually, his apprenticeship, certifying him as a heavy equipment mechanic. 

Cambrian’s conventional Heavy Equipment Apprenticeship program works on a day release basis. The apprentice works for a company and must come to school one day per week for eight hours over a three-year period to receive the required in-school training.

The Heavy Equipment Technician program is a two-year diploma program requiring one full year of school followed by a 12 to 16-week co-op placement. A second year of school followed by another work placement earns students a trades diploma which allows them to work in industry and complete their apprenticeship.

Cambrian’s School of Skills Training/Sky Tech, the governing body for the co-op diploma model, works closely with mining companies and suppliers to arrange for student placements. “It is an incentive for the student to be motivated to perform both academically and on the job,” Huzij said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Graduates from the program often perform their co-op placements or complete their apprenticeships in the construction and/or mining-related industries in which off-road mobile equipment like load-haul-dump machines, drill jumbos, large articulating forklifts and bolters are plentiful.

Huzij has seen the co-op program increase in popularity from 20 students when it first started 10 years ago to approximately 120 students today. An optional third year Truck and Coach Technician Program will begin this fall.  “Industry is requesting people with dual certification,” especially in Alberta, Huzij said.

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