I have always been skeptical about my brother, Karl, never going to school … but now my doubts have vanished.

I am so proud of him.

When Karl was only 14, he started his apprenticeship with our Dad, Martin, to be a machinist. Karl was not attracted to this trade because of the potentially high profits, nor was he considering a future of taking over the family business, Quantum Machine Works. He just wanted to make things.

“Dad told me we’d be able to make a go cart,” Karl says. And from that moment on he was convinced.

Lots of people don’t actually know what a machinist really is or what they do. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know and I asked Karl what the difference was between a machinist and a mechanic.

“A mechanic just fixes things. Machinists can fix things, too, but we also create things; we can build our own parts,” Karl clarifies.

Dad overhears our conversation and jumps in eagerly: “Almost everything we have and use has been influenced or touched by a machinist.”

Dad gives a long list of examples, thrilled by the fact that I am finally taking an interest in how he and Karl spend their days. He informs me that machinists make the parts for the machines that make paper, they make the moulds for toothbrushes, they make elements of the machines that spin cotton and make clothing and so much more.

Recently, Karl went to the Skills Canada Competition for Machining and won a silver medal, hence why I am so proud. Since he was the only eligible apprentice from the Yukon, he did not have to compete in a local competition first like all the other provinces and territories do.

“I got there by default,” he chuckles.

Karl went to Calgary for this competition with no idea how his level would compare to the other competitors. He certainly did not expect to receive any medals.

In the machining competition at Skills Canada, they use CNC machines, (Computer Numerical Control machines). And luckily, Karl had been able to work on CNC machines at Quantum Machine Works prior to the competition.

Before 2001, Quantum had only had manual machines but, as the business expanded, Dad invested in his first CNC machine and now Quantum has nine different ones at the shop.

At Skills Canada, the machining contestants had to participate in two different categories: milling and the lathe. Karl was much more confident with the lathe, as 90 per cent of the work he does at Quantum is on the lathe.

However, on a point system he ended up coming first in milling and third on the lathe to make his overall standing second place.

“I wasn’t very confident in milling, but I guess no one else was either,” Karl shrugs.

Because he came first in milling, Karl has been invited to be on Team Canada. This opportunity is huge. He is the first Yukoner ever to be on Team Canada and also the first from any of the territories.

Representing Canada for machining, Karl will get to compete in the WorldSkills Competition in 2009. He will have a personal trainer sent to Whitehorse to help him prepare as well as a psychologist for mental preparation.

Karl also gets to travel to Ottawa with Team Canada and to a resort in Montréal for a week of team bonding.

Against 900 other competitors, Karl does not have high expectations of winning any medals in the WorldSkills Competition.

“The whole thing is just going to be a huge learning experience,” Karl grins.

PHOTO: HEIDI LOOS