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Tradespeople from Luxemburg to the United Arab Emirates are going for gold in WorldSkills 2009.
Brent Constantin/the Gauntlet

Tradespeople take on WorldSkills

Chefs, welders, florists flock to Calgary for biannual international competition

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If you ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, typical answers include doctor, lawyer or astronaut. WorldSkills Calgary 2009 showcases some career alternatives and gives those who have chosen those careers the chance to show off their skills.

"There are 900 different competitors that will compete in 45 different trade areas. Canada is represented with 38 members and they'll compete in 35 different trade areas," said Skills Canada Alberta communications co-ordinator Shawna Bourke.

At the WorldSkills there will be eight competitors from Alberta and five from Calgary. Those representing Calgary will be competing in IT PC/network support, painting and decorating, car painting, auto body repair and sheet metal technology.

Categories range from aircraft maintenance to graphic design to web design, said Bourke.

"The experts from each of the different countries that have their contestants there basically get together and set a judging team and they set out parameters and marking schemes prior to the competition to judge the competitors," said workshop supervisor assistant Joel Crook.

"In Canada, or in Alberta specifically, they are selected to compete at the post-secondary level by their training provider and so they enter into the provincial skills competition," said Bourke. "Once they win gold at provincials, they go onto nationals and if they win gold at nationals, that's how they would get onto Team Canada."

Once a student has been selected as a member of Team Canada, they train for about a year and a half before competing in WorldSkills. They are paired with a trainer who lives in their area and is an expert in their field, explained Bourke.

"Just as an athlete might demonstrate some natural ability and be at the top of their class, once they're selected for a team or are really focused and training, their skills are highlighted that much more and they are really able to focus and hone those skills," said Bourke.

Crook explained the competition gives the tradespeople-in-training an opportunity to see different trades "actually in action."

"They can actually try to do something and work with their hands. If they end up doing that for a living, it's a good thing."

"The idea with Skills Canada competitions is that students get that opportunity to see them, to talk with experts who also have an intense passion for their trade and to be able to make that connection between what they thought . . . an electrician did and what the possibilities of a career in that field could take them to," said Bourke. "We're here to change some perceptions."

The competition started Wednesday at Stampede Park and ends Friday. Admission is free.

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