Jake Schuttinga with his completed “playhouse” at the Skills Canada competition in Moncton.

EMCS student earns gold in national carpentry competition

Jake Schuttinga always loved building things. This time, he put his skills to the test... and won.

A goal often starts with a dream, that incomparable drive that rushes up from within all of us. For Edward Milne Community School graduate Jake Schuttinga that goal was to challenge himself in carpentry.

He not only made it to the Skills Canada competition in Moncton, but also took home the gold in the carpentry category. So far, he’s the only person from the South Island to ever win gold, and the only one in his category to finish during the prescribed time.

In the end, it wasn’t about winning, but giving it his best, said Schuttinga.

“When I went there, I said, if I could just finish the project, I’ll be happy, because it was definitely a challenge,” he said.

Contestants from Quebec and Ontario took home silver and bronze.

The challenge was certainly not for the lighthearted. Participants had 12 hours; seven in the first day, another five the next day, to finish off a playhouse-like structure, two meters long by 1.2 meters wide, two metres from top to bottom.

“It had a front porch with a railing, inside it had a little window on the one side, then a simple gable roof, all the fascia boards, it was done up,” Schuttinga said, adding that it was a lot to build in 12 hours.

The entire event runs for five days, including orientation, opening and closing ceremonies. In Schuttinga’s category, all participants received the same build plan, work materials, workspace and tools. Basic power tools were supplied, though everyone had to bring their own hand tools.

After all, the idea was to test raw skill, not just the ability to handle a power tool.

“There was some finicky stuff, we had to finish two brackets. All we had for power tools was a cordless drillsaw and jigsaw and a couple of drills. No chop saws, no air nailers, no table saws, none of that. It was very basic,” Schuttinga said.

It didn’t matter much though, because if you really want something done, you get it done, regardless of what it takes to do it. As such, Schuttinga’s love for carpentry goes way back – wood shop class, Grade 7, to be exact.

“We had a little box to make … flat simple thing. It all just started for me there because I wanted to make it a little different, so I put a rounded top, put hinges and a latch, and line the inside with felt,” he said, adding that even in his childhood, he always liked building things, from tree forts to go karts. He also helped his father, a professional tradesman, build the family home 11 years ago.

It all takes work though. Even Skills Canada didn’t come to him at first, instead, he earned it through experience, patience, and dedication.

Now that he’s finished his carpentry foundations level 1 course at Camosun College, Schuttinga works for a construction company in North Saanich. He hopes that one day he’ll have a business of his own.

“You never know where life takes you. Right now I’m enjoying where I’m at.”