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Kelowna  

Shocking win for student

Zach Andrews is adding another medal to a growing collection of accolades after returning from the Skills Canada Competition in Moncton, N.B., with a gold medal in electronics.

The 31-year-old qualified for the Canada-wide competition after winning gold for B.C. in April at the provincial challenge in Abbotsford. He was joined by fellow Okanagan College student Aaron Schmidt, who also earned gold at the provincial competition and finished second in the country in automotive service.

Making the trip to compete in Moncton meant Andrews had to pass up the opportunity to attend the college’s convocation ceremony; he completed the two-year Electronic Engineering Technology diploma program in May. However, Andrews had already experienced the satisfaction of graduating from the college when he completed the Electrical Program and earned his Red Seal designation in 2009.

“I started the Electrical Program at the College in 2005 and worked my way through all of my apprenticeship levels,” said Andrews. “When I became a journeyperson in 2009, I decided to focus on saving money for more schooling, as I knew I wasn’t done learning. In 2014, after a decade of employment as an electrician, I enrolled in the Electronic Engineering program and have now finished my second credential at Okanagan College.”

When Andrews was asked to consider competing at the provincial Skills BC challenge, he wasn’t sure what to expect.

“I was pretty surprised to win the competition,” he said. “I thought I had done a good job, but it was exciting to learn I was the best in the province.”

Andrews drew on his experience from Skills BC at the national competition but was slightly less confident about the outcome.

“The national competition was much longer and covered all aspects of the technical skills we learn in the program — and if you ask anyone who has taken Electronic Engineering, it is not an easy program. I was shocked at how I was able to draw on concepts and techniques I had learned in first-year. It was incredible, everything from circuit theory and design and fabrication to soldering and programming microcontrollers. I think I was the only person to complete the soldering task and have the circuit fully functional.

“I was completely taken by surprise when I found out I won. I thought the other competitors from across the country were doing really well. I was pleased to win and I think the education I received throughout the program combined with my knowledge as an Electrician really set me up for success. I worked really hard and in this case putting in the work paid off,” he said.

Now that he can consider himself as the most skilled graduate in electronics in the country, you might think Andrews’ next step would be to focus on working. And while he is spending the summer working as an electrician, he hasn’t yet completed all of his educational goals.

Andrews is enrolled in Okanagan College’s Electronic Engineering Technology Bridge to UBC Okanagan Electrical Engineering program, which builds on the two-year diploma program to prepare graduates for entry mid-way into UBC Okanagan’s degree program.

“I know I could get a job today in my field and having credentials in both the electrical trades and technologies sets me apart but I’m focused on continuing my education. I think it’s a good investment and will open a lot of doors in the future."

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