Welding instruction is taking to the road in New Brunswick inside a 53-foot-long trailer with eight welding booths for students at high schools in the province.
The first mobile welding program in New Brunswick, and possibly all of Atlantic Canada, the trailer will go to high schools without welding classes.
“It is about preparing youth for the skills needed for the success of New Brunswick and Canada, but it is also about creating opportunities for them,” says Darren Hanscomb, learning specialist, skilled trades, for the New Brunswick Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.
Susan Crowley, executive director of the CWB Welding Foundation, says in some Canadian regions up to 40 per cent of welders will be leaving the field in the next 10 to 15 years.
At the same time, many high schools have long ago dropped industrial shop classes from their curriculum, leaving students with little or no exposure to trades like welding.
The mobile initiative aims to take the standard welding curriculum determined by the provincial government to high schools that don’t have training opportunities in place.
It will be equipped with a full-fume extraction system and feature booths for all-position welding similar to the setup in a high school shop, says Hanscomb.
The initiative is a partnership between the government, the CWB and private sector New Brunswick-based companies Ocean Steel and Construction and Source Atlantic.
Crowley says there is “a huge gap” between young Canadians entering the field and those welders retiring.
The first partnership of government, private industry and the CWB on a mobile training initiative that she is aware of in Canada, Crowley says the CWB’s mandate is “to support the welding workforce of the future.”
The mobile teaching facility will offer two 90-hour elective courses covering all aspects of shielded and gas metal arc welding, cutting and forming metal, along with an introduction to TIG welding, Hanscomb says, noting the trailer is expected to head to its first school next fall once it is fully outfitted.
Calling the New Brunswick portable welding program an “exciting initiative,” Crowley says she hopes to see similar startups in remote areas of northern Ontario and regions in Western Canada.
A model like New Brunswick’s is being evaluated in Thunder Bay, she says.
Crowley notes there has been “significant growth” in high school welding programs in New Brunswick and other Atlantic provinces in the past few years, thanks in part to stimulus from government and private industry.
Along with welding instruction, the New Brunswick trailer will be used for demonstrations, career days and skills competitions.
The trailer’s duration at any school will depend in part on teacher availability. Some of the students completing the two courses will go on to jobs in the industry, others to apprenticeships.
Lori Carle is a representative of companies Ocean Steel and Construction plus Source Atlantic, both of which employ welders.
She says the companies see the mobile trailer as an eye-opener for students to the potential for a career in welding after they graduate from high school.
“A lot of kids go the university route. People have lost touch with all the other great college opportunities…and working with their hands. Now, here we are with a shortage (of skilled trades).”
The unusual program isn’t the only initiative the CWB is involved in. Over the past year, the welding foundation has done 32 new and rebuild welding facilities at high schools in Canada, says Crowley.
Around for more than 80 years, the CWB is the primary training, education and certification centre for welding in Canada.
Over the past five or so years, it has been supporting welding technology programs in secondary schools in part through infrastructure needs and training teachers on welding skills.