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Donor support helps Manufacturing grad qualify for trades and technology Olympics

December 15, 2016

silas-meechesIt’s safe to say Silas Meeches has turned out to be a good investment.

With the help of several donor-supported awards and bursaries from Red River College, Meeches, 20, graduated with his Manufacturing Technician diploma in May 2016. Now, he’s busy prepping for the 2017 World Skills Competition in Abu Dhabi, an event he describes as “the Olympics for trades and technology [students].”

Meeches first qualified for the event in June 2016 when he won a silver medal (in CNC Machining) at the Skills Canada National Competition in New Brunswick. Before nationals, he won gold in the Skills Manitoba Competition hosted at RRC.

Originally enrolled in the College’s Precision Metal Machining certificate program, Meeches didn’t feel it was a good fit for his skill set. He credits Manufacturing Technician co-ordinator Rob Ataman for pointing him to a program where he could thrive.

“From what I’ve heard [Rob] has always been a big help to students, and I was no exception,” says Meeches. “[There was] a lot of pushing in the right direction. I’d say ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’ and he’d say, ‘I know you can.’”

That’s not to say Meeches lacks in self-motivation. Despite graduating in the spring, he still spends the bulk of his time refining his trade in RRC’s machine shop. With the World Skills Competition slated for October 2017, Meeches has a year to train for the event.

“I’m making sure I understand all the programs, all the materials, all the dimensioning, all the stuff I’ve been doing for the past few years,” he says. “Everything has to be perfect.”

While a student at RRC, Meeches’ tireless work ethic earned him the Sadvik Coromant Award, the Ted M. Konyk Bursary, the Gene Haas Bursary and the H. C. McGregor Merit Award.

A graduate of Sisler High School, Meeches says he developed that work ethic while playing with the North Winnipeg Nomads Football Club.

“It was in bantam level that I saw I could be good at the sport if I put a little bit more extra work into it, and that carried into high school,” he says.

“When I got into metal shop in high school I found I was putting more effort into there then I was into anything else. I thought I was supposed to be the football kid, but I started morphing more into a trades guy. When I first got to [RRC], I said ‘OK, let’s put in the effort that I’ve always been putting in,’ and then a couple people helped me out. I thought ‘OK, I can’t fail,’ and I started to go the extra mile, found more in the tank. I started putting in more and more work, which led me to here.”

Meeches’ hard work has already taken him places. In November of this year, he made his way to Gothenburg, Sweden for the EuroSkills competition, where he competed in an unofficial capacity and gained practice time with the equipment he’ll use in Abu Dhabi.

While admittingly nervous during competitions, Meeches said he manages to keep his cool.

“Something I’ve learned to do here at Red River is to trust myself,” he says. “In the competitions, you can start second-guessing yourself because of the time limit and all the people watching you and making comments like ‘What was that sound?’ You ask yourself, ‘Did I do this right? Did I do that wrong?’ but at the end of the day, you have to trust yourself.”

Meeches said his confidence in competition has already caught the attention of a few potential employers.

“They see it as, ‘He can work under stress. He can work under tight deadlines. He can make sure we hit our targets, so when the time comes, he won’t flinch,’” Meeches says.

Every year, hundreds of students just like Meeches receive financial awards that make a real difference in their lives. Many of them tell us they would not have been able to continue with their studies had they not received a scholarship, bursary or award to help cover their costs.

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