This month Dawson Creek, B.C. students celebrated the completion of a Mind over Metal welding camp, where they learned welding safety, basic welding processes and got a chance to try some arcs and sparks.
The students, 16 in total and ranging in age from 12 to 15, gathered at Northern Lights College alongside faculty, community members, representatives from the Canadian Welding Association Foundation (CWAF) and TransCanada Corporation to show off their work and celebrate the achievement.
"Introducing Mind over Metal welding camps to both elementary and junior high schools will raise awareness about welding and the trades, with the hopes that arcs and sparks inspire a new generation of welders," said Deborah Mates, executive director of the CWAF.
Mates announced a two-year partnership with TransCanada, who will help deliver nine Mind over Metal welding camps this year, upgrade welding equipment and offer professional development training sessions for teachers in secondary schools across Western Canada.
"TransCanada is proud to partner with CWA Foundation to offer hands-on welding experience to secondary students," said Trevor Halford, director of TransCanada BC Public Affairs, in a release. "CWA Foundation’s programming has proven to not only help youth consider careers in the skilled trades, but it also encourages them to stay in school and remain focused on their goals. As a company whose business relies heavily on the skilled trades, we believe it is important to help develop high-demand and transferable skills in the communities where we do business."
Trent Konrad, technical outreach officer for the CWAF, said the program started off in 2014 with only three camps but has now exploded to 55 all across the country. The camps, each a week long, offer hands-on training in safety, welding and construction skills to kids in middle school.
"We are trying to catch them before they enter into high school and start thinking about a career," said Konrad.
While camps sponsored by TransCanada and other companies target their areas of need, the program has also been able to develop camps just for girls and aboriginal youth. Konrad said they then find volunteer instructors who are women or who are from the local community to do the instruction.
The foundation recently even put on a Mind over Metal camp for seven students at school for the deaf in B.C.
"The students at the BC Provincial School for the Deaf are often overlooked when it comes to opportunities in the trades and we want them to experience welding from a hands-on perspective," said Mates in a release. "The support from industry, parents, ITA (Industry Training Authority) and Ironworkers Local 97 for allowing us to use their facilities is quite remarkable. This is one of many outreach projects throughout the country the CWA Foundation has planned for this year, but it is probably the most unique in terms of the demographic. We are very proud to be offering this camp to these students."
Since the program has been going for four years, Konrad said the CWA is now starting to see the first group of campers graduating from high school.
"We have started seeing them graduate and enter apprenticeships and we have had some really good testimonials," said Konrad. "This was their first experience with welding."
TransCanada could be in dire need of welders as U.S. President Donald Trump has approved the Keystone XL Pipeline which would ship oil from Hardisty, Alta. to refineries in the U.S. However, the project still faces fierce opposition from environmentalists and legal challenges from the state of Nebraska.