A young Red Deer College man hailing from Lacombe brought pride to Central Alberta during the recently held Skills Canada (Provincial) Competition, taking home gold in his category of post-secondary carpentry.
Dennis Borren has competed in several Skills Canada competitions and has always been comfortable with the idea of pursuing carpentry.
“I can’t say it was a new experience; I did it all through high school as well and knew what was coming. It’s exciting but it’s also a really stressful week. All you can think about is blueprints and dimensions. At the same time, it’s all worth it if you do well,” he said.
“I just finished my second year, and I’m doing my hours for third year now (working towards a journeyman ticket for carpentry). I like the hands-on aspect. I like to be active and don’t think I could ever really do an office job. It’s just not me. I like being outdoors and doing the math. It’s always interested me since I was a kid. I’ve never really thought of ever doing anything else for a career.”
Skills competitions pit students across the regions, province and country against each other in a number of trades’ categories from hair styling to welding and carpentry, where Borren won.
Educators work closely with Skills students to offer additional coaching and to hopefully provide opportunities such as travel and skill development for the winners.
Borren said he was thankful for the effort his instructors at RDC put forth in preparing him for the event.
“The project is considerably more challenging (than in high school competition). It’s mostly the roofs that are difficult because there is more depth involved. There’s no way I could have done it without schooling. There are a lot of angles you’ve got to be able to figure out, and for some of the things on the roof, I’m lucky I had instructors at RDC teach me extra stuff that you don’t learn in curriculum. There’s just a few funky angles that they don’t really go over in school,” he said.
“It helps a bit to remind yourself what to do but the instructors at RDC really emphasized having a game plan and sticking to it, even if it looks like someone’s ahead of you. Half the problem is thinking of what to do next.”
Borren built a playhouse roughly 4’ wide, 6’ tall and 8’ long. He said the most challenging part of the competition was to install the roof, which had many unique angles. As well, he said the key to be attentive to the blueprints and focus on his own project rather than those around him.
“Everything in the project, you have a forgiveness of one millimetre. As soon as your dimensions are off by more than that you start losing points. That’s a big thing. Lumber is usually a certain dimension, but quite often if it’s only a millimetre off and you don’t even notice. You’d lose points in the competition,” he said.
“It’s meant to kind of be practical, but the detail that we do, you’d never actually do on the job. It’s more to prove that you can do the math and that your numbers work out. On a big building, you can hide small imperfections – not here. Every cut has to be done right, every joint has to be perfect, and if the angle is slightly off, you get little gaps in the board. It takes nothing away from the structure but it’s about aesthetics and letting the judges know you can do it.”
All in all, Borren said taking home gold was a good way to end his final Skills Canada competition as he officially has reached age limit for next year. He will continue to pursue his journeyman ticket at RDC.