Ben Heming is at ease wielding a hammer, a saw or a level.
He’s also made himself comfortable composing lyrics, including about carpentry, a trade that may very well be how he makes his living in the future.
A Grade 11 student at Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit, Heming wrote an award-winning rap ode to the trade for Skills Canada Nunavut. He then recorded a video to accompany the song. The combination recently landed him first prize – a new iPhone – in the National Skilled Trade and Technology Week Challenge.
Heming had joined the rap club at his school to become more proficient.
“I thought it would be cool to incorporate my favourite things, carpentry and rap and put it all into a video,” he said, adding that the visual production was a first for him.
His exposure to carpentry has come from school and at home. In one of his classes, he crafted wooden toys for elementary school students. He enrolled in wood shop and made ulu holders, a coat hangar and a sign for displaying a house number, among other projects.
He also gave his mom a hand building his grandmother’s deck in Calgary.
“I foresee it as a potential career. I fell in love with it,” he said of carpentry, adding that he hopes to get a job at a construction site this summer.
Janis Devereaux, executive director of Skills Canada Nunavut, was impressed by Heming’s resourcefulness.
“I was so excited when I saw that,” she said of his video entry. “He got, I think, over 8,000 views on our Facebook page.”
Virtual competitions have become the new norm for Skills Canada Nunavut due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The organization has held close to a dozen “SkillsNU@Home” challenges. Those competitions elicited entries such as Ronnie Suluk and his son Wyatt building an iglu together.
Skills Canada Nunavut is assessing the viability of holding a territorial skills competition in April via a virtual platform for events such as public speaking and job demonstration, said Devereaux. Photo and video competitions can also be held online or by sending files on memory sticks, she noted.
“It’s a new era for everyone, trying to continue to move forward,” she said of the innovative alternatives to in-person contests.
Depending on the status of the pandemic in April, there’s also a possibility of a showdown at Sanatuliqsarvik Nunavut Trades Training Centre in Rankin Inlet, where carpentry, plumbing and electrical competitors could face off, with public health restrictions observed, said Devereaux.
“It may just be students who are currently attending the (trades) school in Rankin Inlet at that time. I know we a few post-secondary students here in Iqaluit that want to compete, so we may end up doing that portion of the competition here and then just select the winner based on the winner between those two events. However, if we can, we would happily fly some of the students from the (Qikiqtani) region over to Rankin Inlet,” she said.
The national skills competition is slated for May, but it will be conducted virtually. Last year’s territorial and national competitions were cancelled because of the coronavirus.
Covid-19 has made a dent in some of Nunavut’s after-school skills clubs due to limitations on gatherings, but the move online has attracted interest from some communities that hadn’t commonly participated in the past, according to Devereaux.
She suggested that schools could incorporate some Skills Canada activities in their communication technology or media studies classes, allowing activities to take place during school hours. In Iqaluit, there are teachers who are able to offer clubs based on photography, videography, two-dimensional animation, carpentry and baking.
‘I’m a carpenter’ lyrics
by Ben Heming
I’m a carpenter,
I build in your community,
I went to trade school,
And not a university
I work on different job sites,
Days filled with diversity,
I’m a carpenter,
I’ll overcome adversity,
I’m a carpenter,
I’m hammering the wood,
I’m making lots of money,
And I bet you wish you could
I’m red seal,
You know that it be good,
A house on metal pilings,
Yeah, that’s how it stood
Nails and screws,
Wood and glues,
Holding it all together,
Housing all of yous
Building houses, high rises,
It’s up to carpenters,
To work with all the crews
The doctors, the lawyers,
They really think they’re neat,
But without me,
They be cold out on the street
Some think we less important,
They think they got us beat,
Carpenters are amazing,
Damn, they are sweet.