May 30, 2023

teamcanadacabinetBY MARK LORENTZ
Conestoga was once again well represented on the world stage over the summer, in the “Olympics of business and technology.”
Johnathan Black, a second-year computer engineering student, and Dustin Sherrard, a recent graduate from the woodworking program, both competed at a WorldSkills event, held in Leipzig, Germany. WorldSkills is held biannually, and features young adults aged 17-22 competing in various skilled trades.
When Black and Sherrard started at Conestoga, neither would have believed their passion and dedication to their respective programs would allow them to travel all over the world, competing against fellow students and creating once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
Black was approached during his final week of exams by Hameed Al-Aubodah, one of his electronics professors, who asked Black about his interest in competing in the Ontario Technological Skills Competition (OTSC) held at RIM Park in May 2012. The path taken by Black was different from that of his counterpart, as Sherrard competed against fellow classmates first, then moved onto the OTSC for cabinetmaking.
Electronics professor Bob Coons praised the work ethic of Black, saying, “he was constantly working on his own time, figuring things out.” He added, “I might have taught him one or two things, but I’m not convinced.”
In a strange set of circumstances Sherrard was able to advance out of the Ontario qualifying even though he placed third, since the first- and second-place winners became ineligible due to becoming 23 years old by the time the WorldSkills event took place this past summer.
Sherrard went on to place first in Edmonton, and advance to Germany. Similarly Black finished second in Canada, but advanced to the WorldSkills event, as the Canadian champion also became too old to enter the international competition.
Just like an athlete would train for any major competition, setting aside time and having a coach to learn from, so too did Black and Sherrard. Black had Rudy Hofer, a Conestoga electronics professor, and Sherrard had Mark Forgeron, a woodworking professor at the college. Coons believed Black trained for almost a half hour everyday, going over strategies and scenarios.
Mark Bramer, the Canadian judge for the cabinetmaking competition and also a professor at Conestoga, said, “There isn’t a huge difference between first and last, that’s why it’s quite intense.”
Sherrard had four days to complete a specific cabinet, being allowed four hours each day to complete certain components, such as building the drawer. Black, during his four days of the competition, had to create a new hardware design, as well as reprogram an alarm clock to play the Canadian national anthem.
“(Sherrard) had a strong first and last day; the two in between he got lost for a bit,” Bramer said.
Sherrard ended up placing a respectable 12 out of 23.
“The competition is so close, one small error can drop you several places,” Bramer said.
Black finished 12 out of 17, stating that ultimately his downfall was time and speed. Black also admitted that he had problems with soldering, however, he believes more practise wouldn’t have helped.
“They just managed to get their stuff done way quicker, which allowed them to go back and check over their work,” he said.
When asked about advice to give to students who may compete at the next WorldSkills in Brazil, Black said, “Practise stuff you don’t even need to practise, (because) in the end it all comes down to speed.”
Black is currently on his co-op term working at BlackBerry in Waterloo. Sherrard recently moved to Ottawa to pursue his career in cabinetmaking.

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