A Morinville student wins gold in the national trades competition

An Edmonton-area teenager won gold in a national job skills competition.

Seventeen-year-old Kirsten Whitfield of Morinville Community High School finished first among 40 carpenters in the Skills Canada cabinetmaking competition.

“There are definitely a lot of nerves. But once I started I was able to focus and calm down a bit,” she told CBC Edmonton. Radio on.

17-year-old Whitfield won gold against 39 other carpenters. (Submitted by Kyle Coxen)

Skills Canada is an organization that promotes careers in the trades to young people. Secondary and post-secondary students compete for skills in the trades.

In 2021, Whitfield won silver in the regional contest. This year she challenged herself to do better, winning a gold medal in the provincial competition and earning the chance to compete nationally.

For the national competition, Whitfield had 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 building things like fences for their backyards, but she fell in love with the challenges that came with cabinetmaking.

“There are so many different things you can learn and build on,” she said.

For this year’s competition, which was held virtually, Whitfield received the project plans and was able to practice in advance. She added that although she was nervous about the competition, she felt comfortable around her workstation.

Competitors had 12 hours to complete their project over two days.

For the competition, Whitfield had to make a toolbox with a drawer in 12 hours. (Submitted by Kyle Coxen)

“Working at school, I had the shop all to myself, so you’re not expecting tools and stuff,” she said.

Whitfield said she felt thrilled to win in a male-dominated industry.

“I love seeing more girls entering the trades,” she said. “It may sound intimidating, but it really isn’t.”

His workshop teacher, Kyle Coxen, said seeing one of his students compete at the national level is absolutely fantastic.

“We’re considered one of the smallest high schools in the province, but I’m just proud of my student and what she’s accomplished,” he said.

Whitfield recently started working with Gem Cabinets and is considering some post-secondary options.

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