Kali Rycroft is on fire. She is raring to go for her second-straight year of competing in the welding category of the North West Regional Skills Canada Competition, which takes place on April 26 at the Grande Prairie Regional College campus in Fairview. She placed fourth in a field of 16 contestants in 2018. This year, after having worked as a welder at Calfrac Wells Services Ltd for more than a year through the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP), an apprenticeship program for high school students, Rycroft is feeling confident of a better outcome for her in the competition.
“I definitely think I’m more advanced now compared to my first welding competition. I definitely learned a lot more,” she told The Central Peace Signal. “I’m going in confident. I really think that I can do it. I just have to fight off the nerves because once those set in I get a little less steady. I’m so much more prepared this year than last year. I hope I do so much better.”
Tell us how your school – Grande Prairie Composite High School – is preparing you for the skills competition?
Our teachers review the blueprint of what we’re going to build at the competition, and they coach us as we practice over and over again.
Tell us about your first experience at the skills competition?
I was 14 years old and in Grade 9 when I first went. I did not compete then; rather, I was a spectator – just so I could see what’s it going to be like when I do compete. A year after, in 2015, I competed in workplace safety. At that point, I hadn’t decided what to do for a trade. I just knew I wanted trade-related, so I competed in workplace safety because I know that would be good on a resume no matter where I was at. I got silver that year in the regionals. That earned me a spot to compete in the provincials.
Unfortunately, the provincials that year got cancelled because of the fire in Fort McMurray.
(Editor’s Note: Skills Canada Alberta decided to cancel the skills competition when it was unable to find an alternate venue after the Edmonton EXPO Centre was converted into a Fort McMurray evacuation spot.)
I competed again the following year and got gold.
How did the competition get you interested in welding?
The first time I ever welded was at the competition. The venue has a try-and-trade set-up, where you could go around to different stations, and someone is there to show you what to do. So, I tried my hand at welding and welded my initials onto a piece of metal. After that I just fell in love with welding. I then signed up for welding class in school.
What is it about welding that attracted you to it?
I’m very artistic. So, for me, the art aspect of welding captured me first. Welding is a creative process. In my opinion, there is art involved in fusing two metals together. Some artists, for instance, use welding to sculpt objects. In my first year at senior welding, I made my mom a birthday card out of metal. When I got my report card in Grade 11 and found out that I finished my senior welding course with a 97% mark, I said to myself: “I’m good at this, so I’m gonna do this forever.” I also realize I like working with my hands.
Tell us about how you landed a job at Calfrac Wells Services Ltd?
I’ve been an apprentice welder at Calfrac since February 2018. I got the job through RAP. I know I wanted a welding apprenticeship, so I went to the RAP coordinator in my school and asked him if he could help me find one. However, my eligibility with the apprentice program is ending soon. On May 24, when I turn 19, I will have aged out of RAP, which is available to high school students aged 18 years old or younger.
What was your first day at work like, and what’s next for you after Calfrac?
I was so terrified on my first day at Calfrac. I was so scared because I didn’t know what to expect at all. I never really had a job before Calfrac; it was my first job ever. My welding experience, at that point, was limited at school. But they slowly transition me into the job. I went from being terrified to treating everyone like family. That’s how it is now. I know things are slow right now, but I will continue to check for welding job opportunities out there.