As he quietly went about perfecting his skills for the biggest welding event of his life, Andrew Christensen was also refining some of his personal qualities.
And people were taking notice.
“People have noticed that I’m definitely more humble. They say I’m a lot more thoughtful and that I don’t just dive into things,” said Christensen, who in October finished 12th in his category at the 44th WorldSkills in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. His efforts also got him an award of excellence for scoring more than 500 points. “I still have the drive to go and do things, but I take a step back more and think about, ‘How am I going to do this? How am I going to step forward and achieve this?’ ”
Held every two years, WorldSkills is often referred to as the Olympics of trades and like some Olympic events, the difference between first and other places can be the slimmest of margins.
Christensen and the other competitors spent hours applying different welding processes to create projects that were then scrutinized, analyzed, pressure tested and even X-rayed for minute imperfections.
Christensen is the second TRU trades student to compete at WorldSkills after Daniel Hall did so in electronics in 2009 in London, England. Christensen qualified for WorldSkills by first winning the BC championship in April 2016 in Abbotsford and then the Canadian championship that June in Moncton, New Brunswick. Once he qualified for WorldSkills, the SkillsCanada organization provided him with additional coaching, mentoring and assistance to compete at international competitions like the US and United Kingdom championships. TRU supported him in many ways, including a personal welding booth in the welding shop that he could access all hours of the day.
Welding faculty member Larry Franzen accompanied Christensen to WorldSkills and said the experience was a learning one for him as well.
“This has really been an eye-opener and we’ve seen a lot of different places and another level of competition. It’s made us as welding instructors and as a welding department set our bar higher,” said Franzen. “Now that we’ve been to the worlds and been on the world stage, we know what our students have to do to make it there. So, I don’t think it will be long before we’re back there again.”
“I’ll finish my final level of welding and then go find a job. I haven’t decided yet what kind of welding work I want to do.”
(Because you’re now highly employable because of WorldSkills) Why finish your program?
“It looks better to have it on the resume so employers can see that you’ve completed all the schooling right to the end. A lot of employers will appreciate that I’ve gone back because I want to better myself.”
Why do you recommend competing in the skills competitions, which start at regionals?
“The experience alone was worth it and getting to experience all the things that I experienced the past year–traveling around and going to all the different competitions—have pretty much made me who I am today.”