Picture Butte student wins gold at Provincial Skills competition

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Travis deKok stands atop the podium at the awards event. Photo courtesy Skills Canada Alberta.

A Picture Butte Outreach student’s passion for working with metal has resulted in a new addition to his collection. Gold.

Travis deKok, 18, won a gold medal at the Provincial Skills Canada Competition, held in Edmonton May 14-15.

In competition, deKok had six hours of machining time to transform metal into polished objects meeting detailed specifications. There was also an hour-long test of students’ knowledge of machining theory.

“It’s very precise,” deKok says. “When you’re done, you can see your finished product and it’s nice. . . It’s clean work. It’s fun work. I love that.”

He says he’s always loved working with his hands and had originally thought of pursuing an apprenticeship in welding. He approached Kal Rob Machining Ltd. In Picture Butte, but the shop didn’t have an opening for a welder. Instead, they suggested he try machining. It was a match made in gleaming, polished metal heaven.

“Walking into the shop, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he says. “I love the fact of knowing as a machinist, there’s literally nothing I can’t build.”

The interest in building is nothing new. Working in his dad’s shop, deKok built his own go-cart when he was 12. He toyed with the idea of becoming an architect or engineer, but he couldn’t see devoting seven years to post-secondary education. Through the apprenticeship program, there is an in-class component, but there’s even more time with hands-on practical training.

To top it off, there’s the pure satisfaction of milling something that’s perfect.

Welding, he says, leaves seams. He didn’t like working with wood. But with a lathe and a milling machine, he can transform metal into a glistening, shiny, seamless part to fit any need.

“We make everything. In the shop, it’s so different every single day.”

It’s not just the hands-on milling that he enjoys. He says he also loves the design work — taking the customer’s description of what he needs and how strong it needs to be, mapping it out on paper, then creating it.

Having completed his high school diploma in first semester this year, deKok is already several months into a four-year apprenticeship with a goal of becoming a journeyman machinist. Right after the provincial competition, he headed to SAIT in Calgary where he’s taking two months of courses. Then it’s back to his job at Kal Rob for 10 months of practical experience.

He credits Picture Butte Outreach School for helping him move forward while many of his friends are still working on their high school credits.

“Outreach was awesome,” he says. “The people there are awesome. You can get extra help when you need it and get ahead. You go at your own pace.”