Representing the province on a national stage and showcasing skills while under the scrutiny of judges, peers and a ticking clock brings a whole new meaning to working under pressure. But that’s something that Walter Loedeman, a soon-to-be fourth year apprentice in the Heavy Equipment Technician program at Lethbridge College, has shown he can manage with ease. Loedeman took home gold medals at both Skills Alberta and Skills Canada in May and is now gearing up to compete in Heavy Vehicle Technician category of the WorldSkills Competition in Lyon, France, in 2024.
“I like the pressure, it makes you really try for it,” Loedeman said after returning from his win at Skills Canada in Winnipeg. “The first day I was nervous, but once I got into it and knew what to expect I could put my mind to it and ignore everything happening around me. It was a challenge, but a lot of fun.”
Skills Canada was established in 1992 with an aim to equip young minds with trades skills that help students and apprentices compete successfully in a drastically changing world market. Students compete provincially in one of 45 trade and technology areas and the gold medal winners move on to nationals where they compete to qualify for the world stage. The WorldSkills Competition takes place every two years and is considered the largest and most influential skills competition in the world and represents the best of international excellence in skilled trades and technologies. Competitors come together to participate in simulated real work challenges, while being judged against international quality standards.
“It is very exciting to see hard work and dedication be rewarded,” said Sheldon Anderson, the college’s Dean for the Centre for Trades. “It’s a great achievement to be named best in the country. It goes to show that through hard work and a willingness to learn you can be very successful. It’s also a great compliment to the faculty that influenced Walter’s journey to success. All those who dedicate time to helping with Skills are doing it because of the passion they have for their trade and the desire to see their students succeed.”
Competing and winning at Skills competitions gives students and apprentices an upper hand when applying for jobs; not only are they proving their talents, but they’re showing they can manage multiple tasks and, as Loedeman says, “keep your head on straight.”
Loedeman is already working full-time while he completes his apprentice program and is able to practice his skills daily, but Lethbridge College instructors regularly volunteer their time to train students outside of the classroom to prepare them for the intense competition.
“We are very proud of all of our Skills competitors and their mentors,” said Dr. Samantha Lenci, Provost and Vice President Academic. “The time and dedication needed to get students ready is tremendous. Along with Dean Sheldon Anderson, our amazing faculty spend a lot of time with our students sharing their expertise and skills. They stand beside our students to train them and are behind them supporting them every step of the way.”
Ethan Wagenaar, who graduated from the Automotive Systems program this spring, won silver at Skills Alberta and bronze at Skills Canada. Last year, apprentice Joshua Mandin (Plumbing) and Danny Peeters (Heavy Vehicle Technology) won gold provincially. Mandin went on to win gold at Skills Canada National Competition and competed internationally in Germany. Last year also saw Tyson Rasmussen (Automobile Technology) and Blake Forster (Culinary Arts) take silver in their disciplines. Since Skills competitions began in 2002, Lethbridge College students have won medals 20 times.
Lethbridge College offers a wealth of high-quality trades programming to all learners, regardless of their level of experience in the industry. Programs include: Agricultural Equipment Technician, Automotive Services Technician, Baker, Carpenter, Cook, Electrician, Heavy Equipment Technician, Parts Technician, Plumber, Welder and Wind Turbine Technician. To learn more about Lethbridge College’s trades programs, go to lethbridgecollege.ca/trades, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 403-320-3411.