Vic High students win big at automotive competition

Grade 11 student Julian Walsh and Grade 12 student Braedon Thiffeault won bronze at the Skills Canada National Competition recently.

When Julian Walsh first walked into the automotive class at Vic High, one of the first things he noticed hanging on the wall was the names of past students who made it to a national automotive competition.

That’s when the Grade 9 student decided to dedicate himself to the auto collision industry and get his name on the wall among the other six students.

“I said to myself, I want to get my name up there, that’s something I can be really proud of, so I worked really hard to achieve that,” said Walsh, 16.

Three years later, his dream has finally came true.

Walsh and fellow Grade 12 automotive student Braedon Thiffeault won bronze medals in the car painting and auto collision competitions, respectively, at the annual Skills Canada National Competition in Moncton, New Brunswick from June 5 to 8.

It is the first time in 17 years that students from Vic High have won medals at the competition.

“I was really excited, I didn’t expect to place,” said Walsh, who was one of the youngest competitors there. “I didn’t expect to win so this is a big bonus. I can’t wait for next year and hopefully go back for gold.”

Thiffeault qualified for the competition after winning gold in a similar provincial competition in April, while Walsh won silver.

Auto collision teacher Kevin Blecic said making the jump from the provincial competition to nationals was a challenge for the students, but they managed to hold their own.

“Going from that provincial competition is like going from kindergarten to Grade 12 for the national competition. There’s a huge jump because the students are required to do stuff in high school that a second or third year apprentice would be doing in college,” Blecic said.

As part of the two-day car painting competition, Walsh had to polish a deep scratch on a hood, paint a fender, do colour matching and a tinting project. In the auto-body repair competition, Thiffeault had to repair a B-pillar section, plaster repair, replace a door skin on the outside of the driver and passenger doors, welding and frame measuring.

Both had to complete tasks in certain time periods, while hundreds of people watched as they work.

“It was a lot of stress and a lot of anxiety and keeping focused and making sure I’m always working. I didn’t want to get distracted,” said Thiffeault, who missed his graduation ceremony due to the competition, but made it back in time for his prom. “I just got into my own little bubble and stayed in the zone.”

After their bronze-medal wins, Blecic said both students have promising careers in the automotive repair industry.

Thiffeault hopes to apply for apprenticeships at automotive shops around Victoria or go to Vancouver Community College (VCC). Once Walsh graduates next year, and sees his plaque on the wall of the automotive shop in school, he hopes to enrol in VCC for their car painting course.

The Skills Canada National Competition is the only national, multi-trade and technology competition for students and apprentices in the country, with more than 500 young people participating in more than 40 skilled trade and technology competitions.