Split photo of Logan on the right and Esther on the left

Taking their skills to the national stage

May 27, 2024
Author: Eric Zimmer

VIU students Logan Cursley and Esther Popma will compete in Quebec City

For Logan Cursley and Esther Popma, their chosen career path already looks promising, as they have both qualified to compete in their fields at the Skills Canada Nationals competition in Quebec this week.

Logan completed the Automotive program at VIU this past December and wrote his Red Seal exam. Now he’s putting in the required hours he needs as an apprentice to obtain his Red Seal certificate. Esther is a Dual Credit student in the Foundations Hairstylist Foundation program at VIU Cowichan and will graduate from the program this June.

Both of them are excited to showcase their skills on the national stage.

“I am so excited to be going to Skills Canada Nationals,” says Esther. “I never expected to get this far. I look forward to the experiences I will have and will do my best.”

For Logan, this year’s competition will be a chance at redemption since he placed second in last year’s event. “It is one of the reasons I decided to give it another go – along with being encouraged to do it by my instructor Dale,” he says.

Although he’s finished his formal schooling, his “apprentice” status still allows him to compete in the competition.

Esther said she has enjoyed hairdressing since she was a little kid, and at the age of 17, after hearing about VIU’s program from a friend who did it before her, she applied right away.

Logan began his auto repair career path in a more roundabout way.

Originally, he thought he’d pursue a career in engineering until COVID hit during his first year of classes. Although he was doing well and passing his courses, Logan wasn’t feeling any passion for the work. After classes moved online and he wasn’t able to come to campus, he knew it was time for a change – but to what?

Stuck at home and low on funds, Logan decided to fix up old trucks that his brother had bought that were now parked on his parents’ property and see if he could sell them.

“I fixed a truck that my brother had bought for a thousand dollars and sold it for $1,500. I fixed the second one, sold it, fixed the third one and sold that too. I made a couple grand in a couple months and after having no income, this cash kind of saved me,” he recalls.

That’s when the lightbulb went on.

“I thought, ‘I could do this as a job,’” he recalls. “Making money doing this was something that interested and excited me.” 

His parents were supportive of his decision and he enrolled in the program. “It was definitely the right call to come here.”

Now, going into the Skills Canada Nationals competition, Logan says he’s in a good mindset and he’s “not too stressed.” 

Esther says she’s excited to “have this amazing experience of flying across our great country, seeing a new part of a new province, meeting new people and participating in this competition with so many other talented and skilled students.”

When it comes to preparing for the competition itself, Esther says her teacher is taking extra time “to train and work with me to build my confidence and skills for the competition. I also use any open time in class to practice on my mannequin.” 

Looking down the road at their long-term career goals, both Esther and Logan would eventually like to be their own boss.

“I would love to open my own in-home salon one day,” says Esther. 

“The goal eventually would be to own my own auto repair shop,” says Logan, although he concedes this means he would be “more of a business person and less of a mechanic.” However, “I’d still be helping people out and fixing problems and I always enjoy that.”

He also might someday like to return to where it all started. “I’ve also thought it’d be great to come back to VIU in the future and teach in the auto program,” he says. “You never know what opportunities will arise though, so I’m just excited to see where I go."

For now, though, both are focused on the task at hand as they get set for competition, which kicks off this Thursday, May 30 in Quebec City.

“I really appreciate all the extra time my teacher has spent training with me and all the encouragement and support from my classmates,” says Esther. “Thanks to VIU and the Dual Credit program for making all this possible.”

Competing is “a lot of fun,” says Logan. “I played hockey growing up and this competition gives me that same rush of needing to perform and be in the moment and on my game. There are judges, spectators and it’s an actual event. I love that.”

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