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ECANZ Challenge Prepares WelTec Electrical Students

23 April 2012

ECANZ Challenge Prepares WelTec Electrical Students for the Real World

About 110 competitors are competing in the Electrical Contractors Association’s ECANZ Challenge this year and the calibre of competitors has been exceptional, says competition National Coordinator Colin Tilley. “There’s been intense interest in proving abilities and making the final.”

Two of WelTec’s brightest sparkies, Zygmunt Zawada and Simon Thorburn, were among 16 competitors completing the Wellington division of the competition held at WelTec’s Petone campus on April 4. They met the challenge head-on and even found it fun.

Zygmunt and Simon are well into their WelTec courses and were undaunted by the tasks set in the competition. They said WelTec’s training had stood them in good stead for it and both knew what needed to be done to complete the jobs; there just wasn’t quite enough time to put the finishing touches on. Both felt they had made a solid attempt.

“We had to complete a couple of lighting circuits and put a switchboard in a motor circuit,” Zygmunt says. “I didn’t quite finish, but got pretty much everything done, just the last bit in the switchboard.”

“The competition was held in a quite public area of WelTec and people were walking through and stopping to watch our competition in progress. Some of the teachers from the day classes for electrical engineering came down to have a look as well. I had a lot of fun, and it was a great challenge.

Simon Thorburn is in his last year at WelTec and then has another year to complete on his logbook before becoming a fully-fledged electrician.

Like Zygmunt, Simon got the lighting section of the challenge completed with no problems but got a bit stuck for time on the motor. “Considering I didn’t quite finish I reckon I did well,” he says.

Simon says anyone thinking about having a crack at the ECANZ Challenge should definitely do it. “It was good fun, I enjoyed it.”

The ECANZ challenge is essentially the electrical industry’s way of finding its leaders and decision makers of tomorrow, says Colin Tilley.

The competition objective is to ensure that as many as possible in the electrical industry’s apprentice level can prove their worth and the industry can identify and acknowledge those up-and-comers for the future.

One of the key priorities is to see how apprentices perform in a practical scenario rather than ranking students based on their CVs as was previously the case.

The competition has averaged around 90-100 senior apprentice competitors from around the country each year. The competition is held at nine or ten venues around New Zealand over a period of a month.

“Every competitor is given the same project and we take the six best from each of the categories from around the country. It’s not the best of each region, it’s the best in the country,” Colin Tilley says.

The competition is split into two divisions – commercial-domestic and industrial –the top six from each of those categories go to the national final, which is held over three days.

The preliminary competition is an eight-hour project where apprentices are under a time pressure to complete a task and show an understanding and an awareness of the information before them, to work out exactly what they need to do to complete the task.

“So it’s not paint by numbers,” Colin Tilley says, “It is a test to see how astute they are in terms of assimilating information.”

The top six go into the three-day final which takes them through a practical assessment, rules and regs testing, first aid, an interview before a panel of industry and then the commercial competitors will have to prepare a tender and assess what’s required and design the project and create it. And then there may be a variation to put in at the last minute – another time pressure element.

The industrial sector will be similar but it may entail PLC work, design and build and then the added time-pressure variation.

“In both competitions we use the finals to expose the competitors to new technology.”

“We’re saying ‘if you are going to be the leaders of tomorrow you should already have a thirst for knowledge and an understanding of the new technology that's out there now. So let’s see how much you have taken on board and how much you understand.’”

“The competition is now into its second life-cycle. Former competitors are now putting back into it from their positions as industry leaders,” Colin says.

There are three more regions yet to complete the preliminary round and then it’s on to the finals in Tauranga from August 8-12.

The top three placegetters, from both competition streams, receive a travel prize, industry recognition and other gifts. All other finalists receive awards and well deserved industry recognition.


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