‘The coolest trade’: SAIT refrigeration student trains for WorldSkills competition

SAIT Teacher: Paul Fleischhauer in one of his classrooms on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023. Fleischhauer is a refrigeration instructor for SAIT.  (Photo by Jessyca Blakney/The Press)

As the fall semester comes to an end, it’s a busier time than usual for SAIT refrigeration instructor Paul Fleischhauer as he trains Tyler Cherkowski for the biggest competition of his life.

Cherkowski will be a member of Team Canada headed to WorldSkills in September 2024, in Lyon, France and he is being trained by Fleischhauer, along with fellow instructor Tyson Frank. The competition is held every two years, bringing together young people with extreme trade and technology talent.

“We don’t know what the project (will be) specifically,” said Fleischhauer on their preparation for the event. “Once we see the equipment Tyler will be handling, we can make an assessment of what he might be doing.”

To qualify for WorldSkills, competitors are required to place in provincial and national competitions. In Alberta, you must be under the age of 20 to participate at the provincial level.

Cherkowski placed first at provincials and was also successful at the national competition. This led to his qualification to compete with others in this trade from around the globe. For the competition, Cherkowski will be given a special assignment.

“Refrigeration is the coolest trade hands down,” said Cherkowski in an earlier interview with WorldSkills Canada. “The physics behind it are amazing and it blows my mind that the majority of the world has no idea the miracle that takes place to keep things cold.”

The importance of refrigeration is often overlooked. The heat that runs through a house in the winter, as well as the air conditioning that keeps it cool during the summer, all tie into this profession. It rarely involves simply fixing refrigerators.

“Every building that you go in, we’ve been going in your whole life,” said Fleischhauer.

“Whether it be from your furnace and your air conditioner at home to the mall and your school; If there’s a problem with the heating and cooling, frankly it’s only us who are out there doing it.”

Fleischhauer has been in the refrigeration industry for more than 25 years and has been volunteering as a provincial skills trainer for the last four years.

“As an instructor at SAIT, we all try to go a little above and beyond,” he said. “Volunteering to train is a great way to do my above-and-beyond thing.”

While training requires extra time and dedication, they can only meet at select times of the year. With Cherkowski being abroad, Fleischhauer says they can train together online.

In January and February, Cherkowski is expected to return to SAIT, and he will train through lunch hours, while also dedicating a couple of hours every Saturday morning to preparation.

It is unclear if Fleischhauer will be the trainer who accompanies Cherkowski on his journey next September, though has high hopes.

“I’m looking forward to the competition, and the experience of being there in a different place,” he said. “I’ve never been to France before.”

Paul Fleischhauer strikes a pose in one of his classrooms on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023. Fleischhauer is in front of another workstation, where his students practise refrigeration skills. (Photo by Jessyca Blakney/The Press)
About Jessyca Blakney 3 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Jessyca Blakney is working as a writer for The Press in 2024.