City teen competing in national skilled trades competition

Alexander Mackenzie student Cameron Ostrander. Troy Shantz

Troy Shantz

The sparks will fly next week when a young welder from Sarnia competes in the Skills Canada National Competition in Edmonton.

Cameron Ostrander, 17, a student at Alexander Mackenzie Secondary, punched his ticket by winning a gold medal at the Skills Ontario finals in Toronto last month.

“In 20 years of teaching students to weld … you can spot a natural. Cam is definitely a natural,” said school welding teacher John Dunseith.

The provincial and national competitions showcase the best skilled trade and technology students in a series of competitions and challenges.

The Toronto event saw 24 of the province’s best high school welders come together and be tested on MIG and stick welding techniques.

The students were given materials and blueprints to complete two different tasks over the course of six hours, Ostrander said.

“I was a little nervous at first but then the nerves settled down.”

For the Skills Canada national competition June 4- 5, Ostrander was already provided with blueprints for two welding projects, although organizers can change certain details just prior to the event.

Ostrander said it’s just like being on the job. And he would know – he’s already secured part-time employment at Central Machine & Marine, with hopes of a full-time job after he graduates this year.

“I leave here after school and I go weld for a few hours, every night,” Ostrander said with a smile.

The welding curriculum at Mackenzie equips students to enter the workforce quickly, said Dunseith.

In addition to various techniques, they learn how to work safely at heights, first aid and CPR.

“The employers really appreciate this. It’s training they don’t have to provide,” he said.

Ostrander showed an early knack for welding, Dunseith said.

“In Grade 12, it only took me a couple of days to see Cam had exceptional talent. He completed four tests in the same time the other students typically take a year to do — two semesters,” he said.

So we pushed him ever harder.”