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Looking to leave a global mark

Appearance at WorldSkills is a long-time coming for young tradesmen.


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May 25, 2015

A trio of Canadians will compete in the events of refrigeration and air conditioning, plumbing and heating, and mechanical engineering design at this summer’s WorldSkills Competition in Brazil.

Marc-Antoine Bettez, Ken Howe and Carson Gustafson were named to the 29-member Canadian team in March. The WorldSkills Competition is an opportunity for tradespeople who are less than 23 years old to showcase their talents in front of 200 ,000 spectators at the international level.

While winning gold in their respective categories at nationals is still fresh in their minds, all of the competitors have spent ample time building toward their most recent successes.

For Bettez, a technician out of Hébertville, QC, an aptitude for refrigeration and air conditioning runs in the family.

“It was really my dad who inspired me to take up refrigeration,” he said in a March interview with HPAC. “When I was young, I used to go with him on calls for service. … He went into work and really loved his job – and that’s how I wanted to be. I wanted to love my job even after 30 years.”

Currently working for Réfrigération Nordic in Alma, QC, Bettez’s passion is not just important for him to thoroughly enjoy his job. It is also the foundation for why he believes he has made it to the world stage.

“It takes a lot of determination and you really have to want it,” Bettez said. “You really have to be motivated and want to do it for yourself and nobody else.”

Bettez may not have had a comprehensive strategy in place at the time, but one thing’s for sure: the 22-year-old won’t be holding back.

“I like pushing myself to my own limits, and that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.

Howe, on the other hand, sort of fell into plumbing and heating. Once set on building a career in cabinetmaking, the Monarch, AB native is of the philosophy that quality is important in all fields and will bring that mindset to Brazil. 

“It’s a good career opportunity, but more importantly, it allows me to express that I’m a perfectionist,” he said of the competition.

And similar to Bettez, Howe emphasized that character will go a long way in getting aspiring tradespeople to the global event.

“You’ve got to care about what you’re doing,” he said. “And once you’ve learned the skills, to apply them in the appropriate settings.”

Certainly, Howe has thought about how he will tackle the competition, noting that he identifies copper bending as his strong point. Furthermore, he considers math to be a key for success in plumbing, which is why he will be getting all of his measurements done before cutting any pipe. 

“A lot of people just hold up the two fittings and measure in between them. But I think that you have a lot of measurements in the drawings,” he said. “I think if you do all of the math beforehand, you can cut more accurately and end up with a more accurate project in the end.”

A chance at WorldSkills may be the most distinguished achievement Howe has amassed to date, though he is by no means new to high-level skills competitions. Having been interested in the skilled trades since Grade 10, he once collected a bronze medal at the Skills Canada National Competition before earning gold last summer in Toronto.

The former Calvin Christian School student has received numerous job offers thanks to his exposure at events. But aside from the potential job opportunities or pride that comes with competing at WorldSkills, Howe is treating the event as a life experience.

“At the end of the day, it’s not all about winning,” he said. “It’s definitely about making friends, meeting people and learning new techniques. … It’s not all about the competition. It’s about furthering your education as well.”

Like Howe, the journey to the WorldSkills Competition started back in high school for Carson Gustafson, a native of Lloydminster, SK. He dabbled in machining and welding, but Gustafson pretty much found his calling after his teacher asked him to try mechanical engineering design in Grade 11.

“I’m extremely excited,” said the young tradesman, who is now working for Integra Engineering Ltd. in his hometown. “This is what I’ve been working on for a number of years now, and I never thought it would actually happen, but it has and I’m very excited.”

Gustafson also feels very fortunate to have gone to a comprehensive school that offered students the chance to try a number of different trades. As someone in a lesser-known area such as mechanical CAD, Gustafson routinely ran into many young people who were not really aware of the career options that existed.

“If you go down the list of all of the competitions under WorldSkills or Skills Canada, you see so many things that you could have gone into,” he said. “But if your school didn’t provide it, then how are you going to know about it?” On that note, Gustafson did manage to give a thorough explanation about what he does and what will be expected of him at the competition.

“I’ve been really trying to get a good explanation down, because no one really knows what I do,” he said with a chuckle. “We are the engineering technologists that develop drawings. Years ago, they used to be done by hand and done by pencil and paper with T-squares and drafting tables. Nowadays, and this competition is focused on it, we use advanced (computer) programs such as Autodesk Inventor to create actual scaled 3-D models of whatever product it is we’re designing.”

With respect to the competition, Gustafson said his strategy for Worlds is going to be time management.

“I don’t know if it’s the same for all of them, but my category is designed in such a way that you can’t actually finish it all in the time that they give you,” he said. “If you were to actually take this test on your own and sit down, it would probably take you a couple of hours longer than the time they give you, so you have to prioritize.”

Whether sporting similar or differing strategies, the three young men will be at Sao Paulo’s Anhembi Park for the 43rd WorldSkills Competition from August 11 to 16, welcoming a chance they have been eyeing for years.




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