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High skills students make the grade

Oct 23, 2020
PCHS scoops up nine medals at competition
There  are  some seriously skilled students walking the halls of Port Colborne High School. This year  the  school picked  up  a total of nine medals — four gold, two silver and three bronze — in District School Board of Niagara skills  competitions.  Of  those  nine,  three  will head  to provincial level skills competitions next week.  John VanGeemen, Zach Dolan and Eli  Schonewille  will  all head  to  Waterloo  to compete in their respective fields of automotive repair, precision machining and welding in the hopes of landing a spot at the national level. For Schonewille it is his second year at provincials,  and  the  sixth  consecutive  year the school  has  had  a  welding  student  at  the provincial level. All three students are part of Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) programs at the school. “Our students are always competitive,” said SHSM manufacturing coordinator Vic Barker, who along with Mike Ferrelli has been coaching  the  students  ahead  of  the  competition. Barker explained  the  students,  and  others  in the  program,  easily  put  in  200  hours  a year into developing workplace skills like welding. “They  are  such  excellent students,” said Barker, adding, “they are in after school, they are in at lunch.”For  Schonewille this year’s  competition will  be  another  chance  to  medal  at  the  provincial level as he goes head to head against 30  to  40  other  competitors  in  demonstrating a variety of welds. Participation in the SHSM program  has  already landed  him  two  tickets for horizontal and flat welding. He noted the hardest portion will again be the interview segment of the competition. As part  of  the  provincial  skills competition  participants must not only complete a skill-based challenge  but  also participate  in  a  mock job interview. Barker  explained  the  students  have  been busy practicing  in  that regard  even  though the  interview  portion  only  represents  five per  cent  of  the overall  mark.  With  tough competition that five per cent counts Barker 
explained. Dolan explained he signed up for the SHSM program  in  Grade  9  after some  struggle  in deciding what he wanted to do. “I enjoyed it,” said Dolan, who will have to showcase his machining skills both on a mill and lathe. “I’ve been doing lots of extra work,” he said,  noting he is excited to compete. VanGeemen  said  he  has  been busy  prepping  as  well.  During  the  DSBN  level  competition  at  the  Seaway  Mall it was  preparation that paid as he demonstrated a variety of skills from brake flaring to electrical work. “I  knew  what  I  was  doing,  I  was  well prepared,”  he  said,  noting his  father  was  a mechanic, a fact that prompted him to sign up 
for the SHSM program. “He  taught  me  a  lot,”  said  VanGeemen, who expects some stiffer competition at provincials.  Barker  pointed  out  the  continued  competitive success is proof the SHSM program is working.  He noted further proof can be found in the fact many students of the program are hired straight out of high school. “A lot of our community partners hire our students right out of school,” said Barker, who will join the students on their trip to Waterloo  next week.   shenschel@niagarathisweek.com