An Edmonton-area teen has won gold at a national trade skills competition.
Kirsten Whitfield, 17, from Morinville Community High School, finished in first among 40 carpenters in the Skills Canada cabinet-making competition.
“There is, definitely, a lot of nerves going in. But once I got started, I was able to focus myself and calm down a little bit,” she told CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active.
Skills Canada is an organization that promotes careers in trades to youth. Students in high school and post-secondary compete in trade skills.
In 2021, Whitfield won silver in the regional competition. This year she challenged herself to do better, winning a gold in the provincial competition and earning the chance to compete nationally.
For the national competition, Whitfield was required to build a toolbox with a dovetail drawer. She also added a shelf, a curved handle and a divider.
Growing up, Whitfield worked with her grandfather to build things like fences for their backyards, but she fell in love with the challenges that came with cabinet making.
“There’s so many different things you can learn in it and build,” she said.
For this year’s competition, which was held virtually, Whitfield received the plans for the project and was able to practise ahead of time. She added that while she was nervous about the competition, she felt comfortable around her work station.
Competitors had 12 hours to finish their project over two days.
“Working in the school, I had the shop to myself, so you’re not waiting for tools and stuff,” she said.
Whitfield said she feels excited to win in a male-dominated industry.
“I love seeing more girls get into the trades,” she said. “It can seem intimidating but it’s really not.”
Her shop teacher Kyle Coxen said, seeing one of his students compete on the national level is absolutely fantastic.
“We’re considered one of the smaller high schools in the province, but I just am proud of my student and what she’s accomplished,” he said.
Whitfield recently began working with Gem Cabinets and is considering some post-secondary options.
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