Auto apprentice headed to WorldSkills

Representing country ‘an honour’

A NAIT apprentice’s polish at auto body repair has punched a ticket to compete at the world’s largest skilled trades competition.

Muhammad Afzal, a fourth-year Auto Body Technician apprentice, will represent Team Canada after winning a playoff contest at nationals last week in Halifax. He’ll compete against the best his industry has to offer this summer at the 2019 WorldSkills in Kazan, Russia.

“It feels amazing. I’m still in shock,” he says.

The 21-year-old had represented Alberta at skills competitions for two straight years, including at last year’s provincials and nationals where he won silver medals. His nationals medal earned a trip to Halifax and a winner-take-all Team Canada “prospects” showdown against fellow auto body repair technician Jason Sherle of Vancouver.

“It feels amazing. I’m still in shock.”

Afzal said he took an entire month off work at Stahl Peterbilt this past May to prepare for the competition and train with NAIT instructor Nathan Badry (Auto Body Technician ’09), who previously won gold at provincials and silver at nationals. He estimates they practised about 30 to 40 hours together, twice travelling to Vancouver to work alongside Sherle so they could both prepare.

“I felt good going into the competition,” Afzal says. He competed in skills such as aluminum dent repair, plastic repair and steel door repair, which had to be completed in 18 hours.

The NAIT apprentice was among 32 competitors selected to Team Canada in disciplines such as welding, landscape gardening, baking and cabinet making. Three other Albertans made the cut.

Afzal says he’s thrilled with the honour of representing Canada on the world stage.

“That’s pretty big. Not everyone can say that.”

WorldSkills Team Canada

WorldSkills a next-level challenge

To get ready for the bigger challenge of WorldSkills, held Aug. 22 to 27, Afzal plans to spend the rest of the summer practising with Badry. In fact, he won’t return to work until after the competition.

“From now until the end of August, that’s all I’m going to be focused on,” he says.

Bryce Nelson, chair of the Auto Body Technician program, says the polytechnic is often well-represented at skills competitions, which is a credit to a “great group of instructors” working with apprentices.

“As far as Muhammad going to WorldSkills, that really that just showcases NAIT and how we’re a leading trainer in trades and other programs,” he says.

Afzal is a good student, Nelson says, adding his performances at recent skills competitions reflects his commitment to push himself. “I think he’ll do well. We’ll be rooting for him.”

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