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By James Maxwell (he/him), Director of Competitions, Skills Canada BC and
Jennifer Fox (she/her), teacher and BC representative for National Skills Public Speaking Competition

Canada is facing a shortage of trained tradespersons and technologists. How many students in your school are thinking about whether to be a welder, machinist, medical laboratory technologist, or radiology technologist? These are examples of possible future shortfalls in trades and technology careers. How many students are even aware of all the possible careers that may fit their skills and interests? How many people know the basic difference between a trade and a technology? Skills Canada BC is here to help classroom teachers.

Skills Canada BC is a non-profit in operation since 1994. Skills BC leads and co-ordinates youth engagement in trades and technology careers, primarily by arranging Olympic-style competitions on a regional level in BC. There are 13 Skills BC Regions across the province, with competitions every February or March. Regional competitions lead to a provincial competition, provincial competitions lead to Skills Canada national competitions, and every two years Team Canada competes at World Skills.

Skills BC is also involved in creating and distributing trades and technology awareness materials and resources.

The Inspire! portal contains resources for classroom teachers to address trades and technology education. These include videos, the Inspire Classroom Presentation (which is a PowerPoint linked to a set of toolboxes that feature two hands-on trades awareness activities), and online activities and challenges. Examples of past online challenges include Woodworking Challenge, Fruit and Veggie Art Challenge, and Paper Airplane Challenge.

Competitions are organized by grade level with a Junior Skills category (Grades 6–9), Secondary Skills (Grades 10–12), and Post-Secondary Skills.

The competition documents for Junior Skills are also relevant for the BC applied design, skills, and technology curriculum. Many secondary competition skills can be addressed from inside the classroom: for example, auto technology, welding, animation, TV/video, cabinetmaking, cooking, and baking, to name just a few. Some competitions would require an extracurricular focus, including public speaking, workplace safety, and job search. Documents that describe each competition are available at www.skillscanada.bc.ca.

A successful Women in Trades conference, first held in the Peace Region, is planned to be added to as many regions
this year as possible.

How can you and/or your class get involved?

  • Sign up for weekly emails to stay up to date on competitions and resources. You can sign up by clicking on “Newsletters” under the “Resources” tab at
  • Check the competitions documents page on our webpage to see if there are events you and your students are interested in.
  • Find out if the competition you’re interested in is hosted in your region. If it isn’t, consider talking to the regional co-ordinator to see if it can be added. Maybe even gather a few other teachers to work together or offer to be the tech chair and run the new competition in your region.
  • Bring your class to a regional competition to participate or watch (if COVID-19 protocols and school district policies allow). Events are often open to the public and have included try-a-trade events for middle school groups.
  • Check the Inspire! portal for resources to use in the classroom.
  • Register competitors for a competition in your region.
  • Volunteer to be a judge in your regional competition.

The staff at Skills BC are happy to work with you, share information, or answer any questions. It is our partnership with educators that make this program a success.

Skills Canada alum on Top Chef Canada
Siobhan Detkavich, based in Kelowna, is the youngest and first female Indigenous chef to compete on Top Chef Canada (in its ninth season, which aired this year). The 21-year-old Detkavich also competed in Skills Canada while in high school, and placed bronze—something she says opened doors for her as a chef.

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Category/Topic: Teacher Magazine