An electrician from southeast Saskatchewan is looking forward to taking on some of the best young people in the world in his field later this year.
Ryan Folk, who works for Chapman’s Electric in Carlyle, took top spot at the recent Skills Canada nationals competition in Halifax. It earned him a spot at the upcoming World Skills event in Kazan, Russia, from Aug. 22-27.
It’s an event that he hopes will further his skill level. “To this point, it’s been a huge learning experience for me,” he said in an interview.
Folk earned the chance to compete in Halifax this year after finishing in the top two among those eligible to attend World Skills at a Skills Canada event in Edmonton a year ago. He spent the past year training and getting ready for nationals in Halifax.
He went head-to-head with the other person who was eligible to advance to World Skills.
During the past year, he was training every chance he had to get ready for the Halifax showdown. He familiarized himself with Smart Relay programming and home automation programming, which allows people to control amenities in their home remotely.
“That’s not something I use day to day, really, so I’ve been working a lot with that stuff, and the home automation that we’re supposed to be using isn’t widely available in Canada. So we have to try to get that imported in and just work with all of the parameters.”
He has also been working to be quicker and more efficient.
“I don’t know how many hours went into the preparation, but it was pretty much every weekend for a year that I worked on it,” he said.
Once he was in Halifax, he went through a three-day competition. He said there are similarities in his event with a Skills Canada high school competition, but the high school level is a two-day test with a different project each day. The test he went through was on a much harder scale.
Folk and his rival were marked on functionality, which is where the automation came into play, along with wiring methods, the efficiency of how they ran the wires and their safety.
“We get one big project on the first day, and they give us our sheets of where they want all of the devices mounted, and how they want everything to work, and then we get those two or three days, whether you’re at nationals or worlds, to work on that project.
“It’s one big project that they mark it on, based on a whole bunch of different electrical standards.”
Just completing the project was a big advantage, because not everybody is able to do that.
“I haven’t got my marks back quite yet, but I think I did quite well, likely 75 per cent plus,” said Folk.
The next two months will be spent fine-tuning his abilities, and looking to correct his mistakes from Halifax.
“I’ll be looking to make sure that I can do things more efficiently than I did in Halifax, make everything quicker and better than I did, and just practice with that.”
It means he’ll resume his weekly schedule of travelling to Regina on weekends to get ready for the global event.
Folk doesn’t know what to expect from his competition at World Skills. Each country has a minimum standard to attain, so some countries don’t wind up sending their candidates. But there is usually 30-35 people who enter the world event.
“Only about 50 to 60 per cent of the competitors there finish their entire project, so it’s going to be tough,” he said.
Skills Canada has been a tremendous experience for Folk. Ironically, he was not part of the Skills Canada program when he was a student at the Stoughton Central High School. But since he has had the opportunity to be part of it, he’s glad he did.
“I think it makes my work look better and it makes me quicker at my job as well. Even for trouble-shooting things, it helps me understand circuitry and all that stuff, and so I think overall it just made me a better electrician.”
He graduated from Stoughton in 2015. He went straight into an apprenticeship program, and started working in Carlyle, where he remains as an apprentice electrician.
It wasn’t until 2017 that he entered Skills Canada for the first time. He went to the provincial competition at the postsecondary level after his instructor told his class about the competition for young electricians. He decided to give it a shot.
And he decided to take one more shot this year because it was a qualifying year for the worlds.
Folk is grateful to his employer for the understanding they have shown during his efforts to train for nationals. “He’s been great about the whole thing, especially with time off, too. He’s been understanding … when I have to go places.”