Given that the 2008 Ontario Sheet Metal Apprentice Competition was held in Ottawa September 26 – 29, it was well positioned to receive national attention.  Thirteen sheet metal apprentices all champions from their home areas traveled from across Ontario to demonstrate their skills and training at an event that defines apprentice careers and has been known to forge life long friendships.  All events, save the outdoor fabrication exercise, took place at the Crowne Plaza Ottawa Hotel.  The first evening was devoted to a meet and greet reception where apprentices were introduced to each other and took the opportunity to compare backgrounds and experiences, an important step in forging the team ethic that marks a good competition and an invaluable initiation into their professional careers.  The first full day of the competition was taken up by formal theory and pattern drafting exams designed to test apprentice knowledge of their classroom training.  The practical application of the competition, the fabrication of a unique competition piece, tests apprentice ability to transform a drawing into a material object, a work of knowledge, dexterity and precision.  This test was held the following day in an open air setting in the Sparks Street Mall in front of the CBC Building in the heart of Ottawa’s business district a stone’s throw from the parliament buildings.

The public setting for the practical aspect of the competition is important because it affords members of the public a bird’s eye view of the skilled work required in the sheet metal industry, a rare insight into the rigors of apprenticeship training within unionized construction.  The finished piece took the form of a waterfall cascading over a slate slab into a copper basin, a memento of the event that competitors carry home following the competition.

The display table at the Saturday awards banquet showcasing the waterfall fabrications paid silent tribute to the team of sheet metal instructors across the province as well as to the new generation of upcoming journeymen on the brink of entering the trade.  During his address following the banquet OSM president Harry Vogt congratulated all of the apprentices.  Scoring first place was Kent Wicklund (Enerdry, Thunder Bay); Greg Calhoun Jr. (Industrial Metal Fabrication, Windsor) placed second and Dan Lalonde (Cunningham Sheet Metal, Windsor) third.  Michael Best (Sure-Way Metal Products, Toronto) and Joseph Hawley (Adelt Mechanical Works, Toronto) took 4th and 5th place with Hawley chosen by his peers as recipient of the Congeniality Award.  All five competitors will defend Ontario’s honour at the national sheet metal apprentice competition to be held in Sudbury this September 30 to October 2.

Note: Crossflow is indebted to the Ontario Sheet Metal Workers’ and Roofers’ Conference and Karen Patitucci for supplying the photos that accompany this article.