About 18 months ago, Winnipegger Dylan Pereira turned his back on a potential career as a dentist after discovering what he really wanted to do was fix airplanes, not teeth.
And it's looking more and more like he made the right decision.
Not only did Pereira excel in the first year of Red River College's 18-month diploma course for aircraft maintenance engineers, he won a gold medal at a provincial and national Skills Canada competition in his trade category.
And in about two weeks, the newly minted graduate will be off to Europe to represent Canada in the 42nd biennial WorldSkills Competition in Leipzig, Germany.
Skills Canada and it's provincial arms, which include Skills Canada Manitoba, are not-for-profit, charitable, organizations that work with employers, educators and governments to educate youth on the benefits of working in the skilled trades and technology sectors.
Gold-medal winners from the national competition go on to represent Canada at the WorldSkills Competition. Pereira will be among more than 1,000 young people from about 50 countries who will be competing at this year's Olympic-style event.
This is the first time Manitoba has had an aircraft maintenance engineer competing at the world level. And while he's a little biased, Pereira's RRC instructor believes his prize student has a good shot at winning a gold, silver or bronze medal.
"Each country is sending their best," Dennis Turney said of the 12 others Pereira will be competing against during the four-day competition. "But he's given it everything he's got (in training for the competition)... and I'd bet money on him."
He noted that every weekday for the last year, Pereira has been arriving at RRC's Stevenson Campus at 6:15 a.m. to squeeze in a couple of extra hours of practice before starting his classes. And for the last few weeks, he's also been going in for a few hours during the evenings and on weekends.
Pereira had to beat out three other students to win the Manitoba competition in his category, and five others to take home gold in the Canadian competition.
"Then you get a year to train and prepare for it (the World Skills Competition)," he said. "I wouldn't say I'm nervous yet. I try to focus instead on what I have to do to win the competition."
The Sisler High School graduate said his parents wanted him to go into dentistry, so after high school he enrolled in physics and science courses at the University of Manitoba.
"But I didn't really care for the courses much. I've always been a hands-on kind of guy. I like ripping things apart and fixing cars and stuff like that."
So he talked to a university counsellor, took an aptitude test, and the results indicated he'd be better suited to a career in avionics. So he left the U of M, enrolled in the aircraft maintenance engineer's program at RRC and quickly discovered that's his true calling.
While Pereira said Turney has played a big roll in his success, Turney said skill and hard work are why Pereira has excelled so far. Now the next step in his career is to land a job as an apprentice and complete 29 months of on-the-job training to earn his aircraft maintenance engineer's licence.
Turney is confident Pereira will have no trouble finding a company to apprentice with when he returns home.
"I'm sure when this competition is over, he'll have more job offers than he can handle. Employers are looking for people who have something more than average, and Dylan does have something more than average to offer."