Proving your skills: Ryan Green, Transportation, and the Skills Canada Competition
The goal of Centennial College is to give students the hands-on skills they need to succeed in their careers. In fact, students frequently get the chance to prove those skills while still in school, at forums like the Skills Canada competition. This was the case with Ryan Green, a student of Centennial College's Heavy Duty Equipment Technician Co-op diploma program. He participated in the Skills Canada competition, where 38 different trades test their skills, to find out who’s the most talented in each profession. Ryan won gold at the national level, and would go on to win the bronze medal while representing Canada in the 43rd WorldSkills Competition in São Paulo, Brazil, in August, marking him as one of the world’s best construction equipment technicians. Here’s how he got there.
Coming to Centennial
“I’ve always tinkered with things, fixed things, played with things,” Ryan says. “If it moves, it intrigues me.”
This interest came from the fact that heavy machinery ran in the family. “Grandpa was a farm equipment mechanic,” he says, “and my other grandfather was a millwright, so I had a hands-on technical background.”
Ryan looked to develop his skills in heavy machinery, but it was tougher than he thought. “High school didn’t have any kind of a shop, so I did co-op programs,” he explains. “I worked at a Toyota dealer and a Kenmore dealer as a co-op placement.
Trying to find the best way to develop his skills into a career, he would eventually come to Centennial College. “I chose Centennial based on the program,” he says. “It seemed like a good match for what I wanted to do.”
“You did eight months of schooling, and then eight months of on-the-job, and eight months of schooling again,” Ryan says, explaining the program’s layout. “Plus you get to work towards your apprenticeship.”
Testing his skills
Ryan first became aware of the Skills Canada competition in high school, when his class took a trip to watch it. When he heard about it years later at Centennial, he was on the fence about participating, thinking he didn’t have enough experience. “I’d never really worked in the field before,” he explains, “and there were a bunch of Level 3’s in the competition, guys that had come back from co-op work terms there.”
He decided the experience would still be worth it, and it wound up paying off in a big way. He’d first participate in Centennial’s on-campus competition, before moving on to the Ontario competition, then the national competition, and finally the international stage in Brazil. No matter the level he was at, the competition worked the same way: They’d have a time limit to discover and fix issues on pieces of equipment.
“It was troubleshooting,” Ryan explains. “So they’d put a problem in the machine, and then you had to find it, and it was related to a specific component of heavy equipment. Different components have different problems. You have a specific time limit to try and find the problem and repair it.”
He’d go on to win third place in Brazil, something he’s happy about. “I thought it went pretty well,” he says. “I did what I could, stumbled and pushed my way through a few things, and did fairly well overall. It felt good to see my name and country on screen.”
Rewards and advice
Ryan currently works at Toromont fixing machines, after doing his co-op program there. He directly credits the competition with getting him the job, since his participation in it landed him the original placement. “The skills competition was about the only reason I got in,” he says. “Some people sent some emails, and said you should try this guy.”
The next regional competition will be in March, here at Centennial’s Ashtonbee Campus, during our open house event. Any student wishing to participate can contact their school’s representative in the skills competition (Angelo Spano is the School of Transportation’s rep). Ryan highly recommends the competition to any other student that wants to give it a shot, though he warns that you have to be serious about it.
“Make sure you want to do it,” he says. “There’s a lot of commitment if you want to go farther. Just because you don’t know doesn’t mean you can’t figure it out, and you’re going to stumble your way through a couple things. Don’t get frustrated, but if you do, don’t give up. It’s definitely worth trying and doing. It’s an experience.”
By Anthony Geremia