Pipefitter apprentice wins gold at Skills BC competition


Jacob McFarlane

Jacob McFarlane (right) receives a gold medal at the BC Skills competition. Photo supplied.

Ashley Evans 

The Pipefitter Shop at Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Breton (FMFCB) has cause for celebration this month. Their apprentice Jacob McFarlane won a gold medal in the Steam/Pipefitter challenge at the Skills BC competition, held in United Association (UA) 170 Hall/ Training Facility.

McFarlane, a third year steam/pipefitter apprentice, attended the competition on April 9 after getting scouted with another member of his class by the Training Director at Vancouver Island Piping Industry Joint Training Committee at Camosun College and a union representative from UA 324.

Contestants went into the competition not knowing what tasks they would have to tackle, making preparation somewhat challenging.

“I wasn’t sure what we would be making; so, I didn’t know what I should practice,” says McFarlane. “So I practiced a bit of everything.”

Contestants arrived to a workstation with a tool cart and an envelope that held directions to what they were to fabricate within the allotted time of seven hours, with a 45-minute break.

McFarlane says the project included making a three-piece mitered 90-degree bend with an equal offset Y on the end. He had to ensure his measurements were correct and that his math had been done accurately to achieve the right angles and to make the cuts. He also had to put a 37-degree bevel on the ends of each pipe, with a 1/8th weld gap. He then had to ensure the structure was all level with correct gaps before tacking it together, which he said took a couple of tries.

The most challenging aspect of this project was cutting the pipe with an oxy-acetylene torch, which is something he had not done much other than in school. Additionally, it was a timed competition in front of an audience. Even facing these challenges, he won gold and qualified for the upcoming National Skills Competition in May.

The best part, he says, was making friends with other contestants who are in the same trade but work in other areas in B.C.

“Talking to the other competitors after the competition showed me there are always alternate ways of doing things. Everyone thinks differently and has different ways of doing things, so talking with them after [the competition], I was able to learn how they went about making their projects and compare it to how I did it.”

McFarlane will compete at the Skills Canada National Competition against other steam/pipefitters from across Canada.

“I am excited and nervous for the competition, but I know I will learn a lot and it will be a good experience,” he says.

He has been employed with FMFCB for the past two and a half years and is completing his schooling at Camosun College Interurban.

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