The national skills competition was held in Winnipeg late last week and two autobody students from the Steinbach Regional Secondary School walked away with gold medals. 

Devin Friesen, grade 12, won gold in car painting and James Bartel, grade 11, took the top step in Autobody repair. 

Jessy Unrau teaches collision repair and refinishing alongside Lyle Peters at the SRSS. Unrau notes he is very proud of the work these two put in. 

“I was there watching, very thankful to the division for allowing us to go and support the students that are working there. It's a pretty big show and so it is really exciting to see them get involved and get out of their comfort zone a little bit and meet new people in the industry when they were practicing for the competition is very nice.” 

Unrau notes this type of success will help these students as they head into the workplace. He adds it is also a good sign for the autobody program at the SRSS, letting them know they are on the right track. 

Both Devin Friesen and James Bartel had to win gold at Skills Manitoba to qualify for the national competition.  

Friesen says the atmosphere at Skills Canada was a big step up. 

“There were a lot more people. I think there were about 13,000 students that came to watch.” He adds “There were a bunch of booths for the different trades and a lot of people walking around watching. I was mostly just focusing on my work, sometimes you realized there were a lot of people around.” 

James Bartel says the national skills competition was also significantly more challenging than Skills Manitoba with two full days of work as opposed to just one. 

“It's a huge difference. The rocker panel that I did at provincials was just a separate piece, and this time I had to do a quarter panel replacement which was on a car that I have actually never done before. I had to replace a whole door skin, do an aluminum dent repair which is harder than a normal steel dent repair, some aluminum welding and more frame-measuring, yeah, it was a lot.” 

Bartel notes he was fairly confident during the competition itself but still surprised when his name was called for the gold medal. With this gold under his belt, Bartel has now been invited to compete at the world skills competition. 

“I am not sure if I want to do it yet or not, I am still trying to decide, but it's very cool. They said they would fill me in on a lot of things, but I know it is quite a lot of travelling throughout Canada just for preparation and then you would fly all the way to France just for the competition.” 

It would be a paid trip, but Bartel says he would have to do two full years of preparation for the world skills competition.  

Unrau notes he was impressed by these two students and their ability to work hard and be adaptable, problem solvers when the pressure was on.