A NAIT auto apprentice is steering to become the world’s best when it comes to fixing damaged vehicles.
Muhammad Afzal, a fourth-year apprentice in NAIT’s auto body technician program, recently finished in the top spot at the annual Skills Canada National Competition.
He is one of four Albertans to represent Canada on the international stage at WorldSkills Kazan 2019 in August.
His love for car repair started when he was 14, when his dad brought home a Honda Civic, crushed in the front, and invited the teen to fix it.
“That’s when I really got into cars,” said Afzal, in an interview on CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active on Monday.
“It was just how everything worked, how the car was put together. And I just understood it. And that’s one of the things I was good at …with my hands and using tools. That’s just what got me hooked.”
The WorldSkills event will involve over 1,300 participants from more than 70 countries.
Auto body repair is one of 50 skilled trade and technology sector disciplines featured in the competition.
The national competition, which took place in Halifax last month, involved performing several tasks in Afzal’s category like quarter panel replacement and plastic repair.
“For someone off the street, it’s pretty difficult. But if you’re in the industry, working on cars, I don’t think it’s that hard,” said Afzal.
The time limit was the most stressful part.
“It’s definitely a factor because something like the quarter panel you get more than 20 hours to do inside the shop,” said Afzal. “But at the competition, we have 18 hours to do like 10 tasks. So it does get overwhelming.”
Afzal prefers fixing high-end cars, with experience fixing BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Range Rover, Jaguar, and Tesla vehicles. But he’s comfortable tackling repairs on any model of cars.
He never imagined he would be representing his country in a competition like WorldSkills.
“It’s a big deal to represent Canada,” said Afzal. “It’s just a big achievement. I’m really happy with where I’ve gotten so far.”