Patience, resilience, net teenager silver medal at national competition

Originally posted: June 05, 2019


Automation and seamless productivity—two hallmarks of modern industry—owe largely to the industrial mechanic/millwright who builds and installs machinery to exacting standards then maintains them for round the clock duty.

When your job it is to keep things moving, it comes as little surprise that the wheels in your mind would be in constant motion. That’s the first impression Jens Boekhorst made during a recent conversation about his silver medal performance representing Manitoba, and MITT, in the Millwright competition at Skills Canada.

Chatting with the 18-year-old and instructor, Mike Williams, it’s immediately apparent the teenager is always pondering and planning what's next. He plowed through compulsory courses in his first few years at Sanford Collegiate with the express purpose of spending his Grade 12 year studying millwright full-time at MITT. 

“That’s pretty focused,” says Williams. “A lot of young men wouldn’t be thinking that far in advance.”

And when he graduates from MITT, and high school, later this month, Boekhorst plans to go to university in fall and from there, “continue farming for the rest of my life,” he says, adding that “maybe in the future I can see millwright as a second job.”

Though dismissive of any short-term prospects as a millwright, Boekhorst nevertheless praised the learning experience at MITT for preparing him for farming.

“It’s been great,” he says. “I did a whole bunch of things that made me so much better at what I do [on the farm] as well.”

That desire to improve and apply his learning forward was evident from the start as Williams recalls Boekhorst’s first day in the program, when he mentioned a problematic part on a machine at his farm and raised the spectre of whether or not he could rebuild it in class.

“Within the first week, he was already building and manufacturing the parts,” says Williams. 

The family farm Boekhorst references will be good testing ground for the large-scale industrial know-how he’s acquired throughout his program: the Boekhorsts are egg producers with more than 54,000 laying hens and they also produce crops.

As for his provincial and national Skills experiences, Boekhorst says he enjoyed the camaraderie with Team Manitoba, testing his skills and learning new ones in competition, and using his downtime to chat with competitors and learn from them as well.

It was also an important lesson in resilience: after failing to complete his project on Day 1, Boekhorst bounced back on Day 2, settling into a good rhythm and finishing strong.

“It got him in a little bit of trouble at first but he worked it out,” says Williams. “I was very proud of how he worked through it.”

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