The four winners of the 2020 Nicole LeClair Welding Bursary Award were chosen for their passion for welding and overcoming adversity.
“In the beginning of my experience, there were countless people who went out of their way to provide me with reasons not to pursue welding, reasons that were not valid, and not based on fact,” said Lea Enders, one of the recipients of this year’s award. “As a young person who was very unsure of the world around her, breaking through that forceful barrier of judgement and unkind words was the most difficult thing I had to do. I later found that those who held cynical views of my passion were simply unaware of the reality of working in a trade. They were unaware of the endless opportunities, the room there is to grow, the great skill the job requires, how fulfilling it is and that I was absolutely determined to succeed in it.”
Enders, a resident of Shuniah, a small town of northern Ontario, is taking the one-year welding techniques program at Confederation College in Thunder Bay. One of her goals is to have her own welding and fabricating business and obtain Red Seal certification.
“The thing with her that got me is she was just so driven. She knew she wanted to get into welding despite having to overcome obstacles,” said LeClair, who started the award last year.
“She’s ignored the naysayers and knows in her heart that welding is where she wants to be. She’s also held down three jobs to meet the needs of attaining her goals. I’m happy to help supplement her tuition.”
LeClair is a welder fitter, a welding engineering technologist, a level one visual welding inspector, Red Seal certified and is a welding professor.
Three of the four winners this year are female even though it wasn’t LeClair’s intention.
“I was blown away that there were so many female applicants,” she said, adding although the award was open to everyone, over 60 per cent of the applicants were female. “I just had an overwhelming amount of really excellent female candidates.”
The award is open to anyone pursuing welding at the post-secondary education level at a private or publicly funded institution in Ontario. Applicants must be residents of Ontario and may be entering into any year of program study. Bursaries will be paid directly to the post-secondary institution at which the applicant is registered to offset student tuition and fees, the award website indicates.
In its inaugural year last year, one student received a $1,500 bursary, but this year, thanks to industry sponsorship, four bursaries were issued in the amount of $2,000.
Linde, a Connecticut-based global industrial gases and engineering company, has agreed to provide US$5,000 every year for the next three years.
The application process opened in the spring and was extended to the end of June due to the pandemic. The winners were announced in August.
LeClair said winner Cierra St. Germain from Sudbury, Ont. was one candidate who instantly had her attention and fit the bursary’s motto of “strive, persist, be in it with all your heart.”
St. Germain went to a high school outside of her district so she could attend a trades program they offered where she was able to focus on welding.
“Through this, her love of welding grew and she knew she wanted to continue on to post-secondary welding education to learn even more about her favourite trade,” LeClair said.
St. Germain will be attending Cambrian College’s two-year welding and fabrication technician program. LeClair also attended Cambrian College.
“I have always been determined to be better than I was the week before,” said St. Germain. “I compare my welds from time to time to see my progress and to identify my flaws. This has made me a better welder because I am always moving forward by always looking back to ensure great success. I also seek learning opportunities and welcome new challenges.”
Lucas Bushen from Oakville, Ont. will be entering his first year at Conestoga College’s three-year manufacturing engineering technology program in September, specializing in welding and robotics. In high school, Bushen was inspired by his shop teacher who did a lot of interesting metal projects with his class and encouraged him to apply for the bursary. He represented his high school in the Halton Skills Welding Competition in 2019.
Bushen was also influenced and encouraged by his grandfather who runs a trades camp in California.
“While there, he was exposed to different forms of welding as well as blacksmithing and made some ornate pieces,” explained LeClair. “In the summer when most kids are out of high school and on break…he was using his free time to do welding in California at this specialty school. That tells me that he’s in it with all his heart.”
Bushen is excited to take everything he has learned so far to the next level at Conestoga College.
“For anyone with an interest in metal work, I recommend trying some techniques through school, in studios or even with home kits like smelting,” said Bushen. “I know it will be very powerful when I can see the product of my work in public settings. I have had a taste of that through the Burlington Festival of Lights, working on a New Year’s display. It’s wonderful to share my work in this way.”
Darby Durrant, from Temiskaming Shores, will be attending Cambrian College in Sudbury, taking the two-year welding and fabrication technician program.
“Her love of the trade started in high school where she took a four-credit high skills major welding class that offered a co-op placement,” said LeClair. “Her boss was very impressed with her efficiency and her ability to keep up. She said when she went to do her placement and her high skills major credit she would always leave happy and that’s what resonated with her the most.”
She wants other young people to know that there are so many opportunities in the trades.
“A lot of people see welding as a dirty job working outside in mud or in a shop, but every industry needs welding so you can work anywhere, from on top of skyscrapers to underwater,” said Durrant. “If you go into welding you will never be out of a job. As welders are retiring less are coming into the trade making welding a very high in demand job and a very well-paying job.”
In addition to the money towards their tuition, LeClair is hoping to present the winners with an award. She is having coolers made etched with the bursary’s logo, the recipient’s name and the year.
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