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Local Georgian student makes history with gold at Skills Ontario

'I was surprised,' said Xander Powell, 19, who became first Midland campus student to win gold at provincials and then did the same at nationals
Georgian College student Xander Powell, centre, won the gold medal at both the Skills Ontario and Skills Canada competitions. He is flanked by Rob Davidson, left, marine mechanic program coordinator, and coach Bob Dundas.

Students from the Midland campus of Georgian College have won silver and bronze from Skills Ontario competitions, but no student has ever won gold. Until now.

Xander Powell,19, not only won gold at the provincial competition, he went on to win gold at the national Skills Canada competition in Winnipeg.

“I was surprised. I just went in there hoping to place,” he said.

Powell is graduating from the Mechanical Techniques — Marine Engine Mechanic program. He was recognized for his efforts at the Midland campus awards and graduation celebration on Monday.

Rob Davidson, coordinator of the marine mechanic program, said the program prepared Powell for the provincial competition in Toronto in the outdoor power equipment category, but isn’t taking credit for nationals.

“Xander owns that one,” he said.

That’s because on the first day of the competition one of the testing stations was working on a snowmobile and another was working on a motorcycle.

“I’ve never seen him so flustered. He ended up getting through it. The fundamental learning of using a service manual helped him use the tools to be successful,” Davidson said.

Now Georgian College’s Midland campus can hang its hat on the gold medal.

“It speaks to how our program prepares students for trades,” he said.

Georgian College’s Bob Dundas was Powell’s coach. He prepared students for the provincial competition by holding skills competitions at the campus, putting them through five different stations.

“Walking into the provincial competition, he knew what was going to happen, so nerves didn’t build up as heavily,” said Dundas.

At the one-day Skills Ontario Competition, Powell had to complete tasks at six stations under a time limit, such as tearing apart a carburetor and identifying the parts. Competitors also had to complete a 100-question test.

Dundas was confident that Powell had the knowledge and could handle the pressure at the provincial competition, but didn’t know about the national level as no one from the campus had ever qualified.

“There was a knowledge, so there was a chance,” said Dundas.

Powell was part of Team Ontario competing against teams from other provinces. Davidson said the Quebec team was strong and ended up second.

The national competition was held over two days and competitors had to complete eight tasks, each within 90 minutes.  

Powell said he was not confident but knew he had to show what he knew and he took it step by step.

His interest in marine mechanics came out of a summer job at Raymond Marine Services in Portland. From Smith Falls, Powell travelled to complete the program at the Midland campus.

Midland is only one of two colleges in Ontario offering the marine engine mechanic program (the other being Canadore College in North Bay).

Powell is back working at Raymond Marine. He is planning on applying to complete an apprenticeship there once he gets his Georgian certificate.

“My boss was pretty happy. I work alongside him there. It’s a small family business,” said Powell.

Skills Ontario covers a wide range of trades and competitors don’t have to be students. So, Powell could compete again next year.

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Gisele Winton Sarvis

About the Author: Gisele Winton Sarvis

Gisele Winton Sarvis is an award winning journalist and photographer who has focused on telling the stories of the people of Simcoe County for more than 25 years
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