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The Skills Ontario Competition was held this past week at the Toronto Congress Centre, attracting more than 35,000 students and spectators over three days, to marvel, compete and learn about career opportunities and fun workplace experiences. And there was no shortage of laughter, excitement and energy among the attendees, from the elementary students on day one, to the secondary and post secondary students on the last two days, to the committed volunteer adults in every section who help out.

Creative industry veterans and representatives from colleges, universities and trade organizations design the challenges, tests, competitions and information stations that fuel the air of adventure permeating the event from start to finish. Although the competitions take centre stage, the event also cultivates a rich menu of inspiration, relationship development and awakened imaginations about future possibilities, for curious and hopeful young people.

Organizers like HRAI’s Skills Committee Co-Chairs Dick Thomas and Brad Mavin, long time committee members Bob and Nancy McKeraghan, Coordinator Grace Diecidue, and a host of other committee members and volunteers all seem to enjoy the event as much as the students do. There is something fulfilling about sharing ideas about new technologies, accepting challenges, presenting projects you have worked on, or spectating while others compete.

Our HRAI Skills Committee has been organizing the Heating Systems competitions for secondary schools and post-secondary students for decades. Students are required to demonstrate hands-on task abilities, write a theoretical test, and go through a mock interview.

There are 70 trades represented at Skills Ontario. In addition to HVAC enthusiasts, there are plumbing people, carpenters, aircraft mechanics, IT and artificial intelligence nerds, culinary artists, animators, graphic designers, and many more. Not surprisingly one of the most popular areas for contest participants and spectators is the robotics section, where bleachers have been set up to accommodate the throngs who want to see the robots and their amazing achievements. The hairstyling, auto mechanics, game development, and video production departments are also popular destinations.

Our thanks to the dynamic committee members and volunteers who worked long hours, the Heating Systems competition sponsors who donated funds, HVAC supplies and equipment, our coordinator on the project, Grace Diecidue, and all the wonderful students who brought their enthusiasm, intelligence, and imagination to a really wonderful event.