Amber Beckjord put an exclamation mark on her bright future last week when the 17-year-old Selkirk College student captured a gold medal at the BC Skills Competition in Hairdressing.
Cutting and styling against 30 of the most talented hairdressing students in the province, Beckjord turned enough heads in Vancouver to bring home the top prize.
“I was confident, but I was still surprised when they called my name,” says Beckjord. “But it was a good surprise.”
The annual Skills BC Competition is part of the Skills Canada program, a proactive non-profit organization that partners with government, educators, private industry and labour to promote and celebrate the skilled trades and technologies as first choice career opportunities for young people across the province.
The competition features contests in dozens of disciplines from 3D computer animation to electrical wiring to car painting.
In the hairdressing competition, Beckjord was tasked with coming up with three different styles — day style, night style and men’s progressive — in what was a grueling eight-hour day.
In the end, the Winlaw resident was recognized for her creativity, technique and polished final product.
“I’ve had lots of students win at the skills competition and I would say she is the best of the best,” says Bonnie Piderman, a Selkirk College hairdressing instructor for the last 29 years.
“It’s about dedication and passion… she has both of those and I am very proud of her.”
Further adding to Beckjord’s impressive result is that she’s the youngest member of the class of 2014.
Beckjord is one of several Selkirk students in a variety of trades programs capitalizing on the ACE IT program which allows high students to take the first level of technical training that gives them dual credit for high school courses and college programs.
“Hairdressing has been something that I have wanted to do for a while,” says Beckjord. “I have always taken classes above my grade, so I thought it was a great opportunity. If I was going to do it anyways… who gets to go to college when they’re still in high school?”
This week Beckjord will join the rest of the Selkirk College Class of 2014 at the annual graduation ceremony in Castlegar. In June she will join her Mount Sentinel Secondary classmates for her high school graduation.
“I’ve always been intrigued with hairdressing,” she says. “I’ve always been really into art and theatre, but was never really sure what my focal point was. Once I came into the class I was still not totally sure, but I love it now.”
With Beckjord’s hairdressing pedigree, her success and future potential hasn’t come totally out of the blue. Her uncle is Anthony Crosfield, one of Canada’s most celebrated hairstylists and a Selkirk College hairdressing program graduate in 1985. The co-owner and creative director of Union Salon in Vancouver, Crosfield won the Slice Network’s Superstar Hair Challenge (season two) and has established an international reputation in the fashion industry.
For the last two summers, Beckjord worked in her uncle’s salon “sweeping floors and keeping my eye on what is going on.”
In preparation for the BC Skills Competition, she spent two weeks in Vancouver at Union Salon doing her program practicum and further developing her budding skills.
“He told me it was a great a program and it definitely is,” Beckjord says of her uncle’s guidance. “A lot of good words have been said about this program and I am going to continue to pass that on.”
Beckjord hasn’t coasted on raw talent. Though the second semester of the Selkirk College hairdressing program is heavy on practical experience, the first semester is primarily classroom and book learning. Throughout it all, the young student has maintained a perfect grade-point-average.
“I think studying is important no matter what program you are in,” she says. “It’s a lot of hard work… you can’t expect to go far in anything if you are not willing to put the work in. I spent hours and hours practicing for that competition, it’s the same way with anything you do. It really helps if you are enjoying what you are doing and I enjoy doing this.”
The pace of Beckjord’s world isn’t set to slow down anytime soon. After Selkirk College graduation, she will finish off her studies at the Silver King Campus in Nelson. After that it’s off to Vancouver to work at Union Salon in preparation for the Skills Canada competition in Toronto where Beckjord will represent BC in June.
If she manages to score a victory at that competition, Beckjord will earn a spot in the WorldSkills International Competition which takes place in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
“I’ve told myself that gold is the only option,” she says with a smile.
With the talent Beckjord possesses, a trip to South America might just be in the cards.