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Roxanne Kanak
Roxanne Kanak

Two Saskatchewan Polytechnic students to compete at WorldSkills São Paulo

Roxanne Kanak and Carson Gustafson take their talents to the world stage in August


July 29, 2015 - Ask Roxanne Kanak what led her to pursue a career in graphic design and you'll glean a few of the qualities it takes to compete in the world's largest professional education event.

"In high school I joined my school's yearbook committee, which included taking photos, doing page layouts, placing text, colours and images and putting everything together on the page. I really enjoyed it and decided to turn it into a career," says the Sask Polytech graphic design student from Quill Lake, Saskatchewan. "I would spend extra time than what was necessary or required for being part of the committee to make sure everything looked just right."

It's this commitment, passion and pursuit of perfection that helped Kanak advance to WorldSkills. In the spring of 2014 she was the gold medalist at the Skills Canada provincial competition. Three months later she represented Saskatchewan at the Skills Canada National Competition (SCNC) in Toronto, once again, earning a gold medal and the opportunity to compete on the world stage. Kanak shared her inspiring story when she spoke at the opening ceremonies at this year's SCNC held at Saskatoon's Prairieland Park in May.

"The graphic communications program has been preparing students for provincial and national skills competitions for the past five years, and WorldSkills has always been on the radar," says Heather Craigie, one of Kanak's two instructors who will be accompanying her to WorldSkills. "It really takes the dedication, focus and talent of a student, like Roxanne, to have this type of success. As an instructor there are many rewards on a daily, weekly and annual basis, but this is definitely a career highlight."

Instructors like Craigie play a key role in setting students up for success. They research current industry trends and prepare a boot-camp style training plan based on the technical and creative requirements of the competition. "The training plan requires students to complete projects during a specified time limit that replicate the competition," says Craigie. "Every project is evaluated by instructors using a standard created by the WorldSkills technical committee. Students are then provided detailed technical and creative feedback in areas that were successfully executed, as well as areas that require improvement."

Held every two years, the competition brings together the top young professionals from 69 member countries and regions. Between August 12-15, over 1,000 competitors will converge in São Paulo, Brazil for the 43rd WorldSkills. They will be cheered on by more than 200,000 visitors, including leaders in industry, education and government. All competitors will be tested by international quality standards in more than 50 skills within six categories:

  • Construction and building technology
  • Creative arts and fashion
  • Information and communication technology
  • Manufacturing and engineering technology
  • Social and personal services
  • Transportation and logistics

Carson Gustafson, a mechanical engineering design student from Lloydminster will be joining Kanak in São Paulo. The strong work ethic he observed at home is what drives him to excel. "My parents...worked hard their entire lives...and through their commitment and dedication I've learned and inherited many of their traits that I feel make me a better person and competitor."

Kanak and Gustafson are two out of just 29 young Canadians who form WorldSkills' Team Canada. Winning a gold medal at the SCNC didn't automatically translate to a coveted spot on the national team. Both students had to attend the WorldSkills Canadian trials earlier this year to qualify for Team Canada. Their success at the trials was the final steppingstone towards WorldSkills.

"We're proud to have Roxanne and Carson not only representing Sask Polytech, but also our province and country," says Dr. Larry Rosia, Sask Polytech's president and CEO. "They've proven themselves to be among the best and brightest in their respective categories and we're excited to see them compete on an international level in São Paulo."

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