Lacombe Composite High School (LCHS) students not only proved they have skills, but the best skills in the country at the Skills Canada National Competition.
Camryn Grant and Ben Rainforth captured gold in photography and welding, respectively, during the May 28-29 Olympic-style competition in Halifax at part of Team Alberta.
Facing an even higher calibre of competition than at regionals and provincials, Grant says she didn’t expect to place first.
“At the end of the competition they do a judge critique so then you can see everyone else’s photos and you kind of know where you are,” said Grant. “I thought maybe bronze – I definitely did not think I was going to win.”
The daughter of a professional photographer, Grant says she grew up around photography, acting as her mother’s assistant while shooting ringette and other events. It wasn’t until she was was in her early teens that she really started to explore photography herself, picking up a $100 camera.
“Ever since then, I’ve just grown,” she said, although noted she plans to have photography as a hobby rather than a career.
Still, she put her growth to the test during the photography competition, where competitors had to complete seven projects over two days, ranging from Photoshopping several images into one and editting portraits to working with studio lighting and creating a series of images using a certain theme.
The tricky part with photography, she says, is it can be very subjective. Last year, she participated in skills competition, but fell short of advancing, and this year she couldn’t have placed any higher.
“The judges aren’t looking for any one specific thing – everyone has different styles and are creative in their own ways,” she said.
“It was a really good experience. I learned a lot and I made a lot of new friends, like Ben, and I’m really thankful I even got the opportunity to go and see Halifax and representing my province meant a lot.”
Rainforth, meanwhile, was a little more confident he’d place in the upper tier of competitors.
“Provincials I had no clue – that was scary – but nationals I kind of had an idea,” he said. “They let you look around a bit, so you kind of know but it’s all up to the judges.”
Rainforth, who grew up on a farm, had been familiar with welding, but Grade 10 was the first time he really got to try his own hand at it, and decided it was something he not only wanted to do, but pursue as a career.
He’s already taking his first year welding en route to getting his journeyman welding ticket, and skills competition was another way to prove he’s on the right track.
In welding competition, blueprints for the projects expected to be built are released beforehand, allowing competitors to practice ahead of time. Once they get to the competition, the pieces are pre-cut and ready to be welded according to the sizes and other guidelines specified on the blueprints.
Rainforth was tasked with creating a lighthouse on Day 1, and a structural box of sorts on Day 2, and his work ultimately earned him first place.
Former LCHS student Dayton Playford, who’s attending Red Deer College, also won gold in welding, but at the secondary level, and Rainforth said there was opportunity for the two Lacombians to connect.
“I had a chance to weld in the same shop as him, so we talked a lot about projects and welds and everything,” he said.
“It’s up in the air if I want to do this again, but I kind of want to try (competing) on the post-secondary side of things. That would be kind of cool.”