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Duo set to represent Canada in Germany

NAIT grads prepare to test their skills against the world's best.


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June 1, 2013 by Patrick Callan

Fresh off achieving his journeyman ticket in refrigeration and air conditioning from Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), Michael Scheideman is ready to test his skills against the best in the world. The 21-year-old earned the right to represent Canada in his field at the 2013 WorldSkills Competition after winning provincial and national Skills Canada competitions in 2012.

Since then, he has been putting in long hours to prepare for the event commonly known as the “Trade Olympics.” He frequently makes the 450-kilometre trek from his native Grande Prairie to Edmonton, AB, after work on Friday to spend the weekend doing test projects at NAIT.

Keith Hodges, owner of Albright Refrigeration Ltd., where Scheideman has worked since he was 15, has seen him take huge strides as an apprentice and become an excellent trouble-shooter.

“He’s got all the aspects of a good young man. He’s smart, intelligent, considerate, and he uses his mind wisely,” he says. “He’s gained enough experience that he will be able to start training new guys that we hire.”

Scheideman says he has always enjoyed working with his hands and knew from a very young age that he wanted to work in the trades. “I knew I wasn’t going to go sit at a desk once I got out of high school,” Scheideman says. What attracted him to refrigeration and air conditioning was the opportunity to do a job that offered variety and good pay.

“One day I could be working on a highrise building and the next day I could be working on somebody’s house furnace or air conditioning, or on a refrigerator at a restaurant or a walk-in freezer,” he says. He competed in his first provincial Skills Canada competition in 2010 after hearing about it from his teachers and has enjoyed entering competitions ever since.

In March, he placed second at a skills competition in the United Kingdom where he built a freezer and ductless split air conditioning unit. “We went there to be in front of a crowd and in a pressure situation,” he says. “It was definitely an eye-opener to see how other countries can work so fast and just be so prepared.”

His participation with Skills Canada has been an invaluable learning experience, he adds. “I’ve been promoting it to all the people I work with because it actually gets people interested in the trade other than just carrying pipes for your journeyman,” he says.

Nolan Spak plans to open his own custom sheet metal shop one day, where he can do anything from commercial kitchen countertops to architectural sheet metal. But at the moment his sights are set on just one thing – winning the 2013 WorldSkills Competition.

The 21-year-old is currently in his fourth year at NAIT in the sheet metal program and expects to receive his journeyman certificate in 2014. The Morinville, AB, native got a spot on Team Canada for WorldSkills with wins in 2012 at Skills Canada provincial and national competitions.

Spak has spent countless evenings preparing for the event with his trainer Grant Craplewe, a sheet metal instructor at NAIT. Craplewe has worked closely with Spak over the years as well and has seen his ability to visualize – an essential skill in the field of sheet metal – increase tremendously.

“He has the ability to see things now that he never saw before,” Craplewe says.

Spak’s easy-going personality, commitment and dedication will take him far in his career, Craplewe adds. “He absolutely tries his best at everything that he does. He takes criticism and brings it forth into his work after the fact,” he says. “To me, Nolan is someone that’s going to go somewhere in his life.”

Spak has been working as an apprentice at Always Plumbing & Heating in Edmonton, AB, since August 2012. He says he first got interested in working in the trades because of job stability. “I knew that Alberta was booming and I knew that I would always have a job,” he says.

What he likes most about working with sheet metal is being able to create something with his hands. “Taking flat pieces of metal and turning them into pretty much anything you can imagine,” he says.

Spak became involved with Skills Canada after his first year at NAIT. Because of his high marks he was invited to the provincial skills competition in Alberta. He highly recommends that aspiring trades people try their hand at Skills Canada competitions, which have not only allowed him to travel, but have also opened up a lot of doors in his young career.

“Saying that you were able to be a part of the Skills Canada team looks really good on resumes,” he says. “I feel really honoured to be part of the best in Canada and representing the country.”

See HPAC April 2013 for a profile of WorldSkills plumbing and heating competitor Jean-Sébastien Simard. <>

Organized by Skills/Competences Canada, the 42nd biennial WorldSkills will be held in Leipzig, Germany, July 2-7, 2013.  Based on their success at the Skills Canada National Competition (SCNC), 35 competitors have qualified to be members of WorldSkills Team Canada. Their abilities will be measured against over 1000 competitors from 61 countries and regions at the Leipzig Trade Fair. More than 43 professional trades will be represented. 



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