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Sparking interest in skilled trades (5 photos, video)

Algoma District School Board holding welding camps for Grade 8 grads at Sault and Blind River shops

As part of the push to get young people interested in pursuing careers in skilled trades, the Algoma District School Board is holding Mind Over Metal welding camps for students ages 12 to 15 in Sault Ste. Marie and Blind River this week and next.

The camps are being held with funding from the CWB Welding Foundation and Tenaris with the support of the Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Union 800 shop at 165 Northern Avenue East. 

The camps are geared towards students who have completed Grade 8 and are going into Grade 9 in the fall.

Welding seems to have sparked an interest in those students attending the program.

“I originally picked business for Grade 9, but now that I’ve been in this class I have now decided to change that. I’m going to call the school and change that. I really do think that this could be a career that I try to pursue,” said Peyton King, who recently graduated from Northern Heights Public School and is heading to Grade 9 at Superior Heights in September.

“I definitely enjoy welding, but I would also like to study architecture or woodworking.”

King described what is attracting her to the trades, especially welding.

“The way I can perfect everything that I’m doing, working hands on, and with the noises and sounds of welding, I can always tell where I can fix things and how it should be sounding so it’s very cool for me to understand and know where and how I can fix things,” King said.

“I always had an interest in it but it’s just now really awoken.”

“It feels pretty cool,” said Samantha Newman, a Korah Collegiate graduate who has just been assigned to an apprenticeship.

“I just started doing it in high school, a couple of classes, and manufacturing was the class I liked the most. It’s enjoyable. We made trailer hitch covers, some people made fire pits. Wherever I can get a job is where I’m going to go,” Newman said.

Emily Potvin is a third year plumbing apprentice at Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Union 800 with an eye on becoming a pipefitter.

“I was going for business. I was set to take over a business and I didn’t like not being on the tools anymore so I went back to school. I did a pre-trade through the Ontario government and from there I applied at a couple of different shops. I was looking at being a millwright but I got in here and ever since I haven’t looked back.”

“I love it,” Potvin said.

“I am doing something different every day. You learn how to do something 10 different ways and you pick what’s right for you. The work, the camaraderie, the teamwork…I work with a welder all the time so you get to be good friends and you get to build something from the ground up or rebuild it. It’s just wonderful to be a part of something.”

Skilled trades are lucrative.

“I can’t complain about the pay,” Potvin smiled.

“It’s worth every cent that I make. I love my job.”

There’s an extra special focus among educators on encouraging females to get into skilled trades.  

“It’s very uncommon (females in trades), which is very surprising for me. There could be a lot mistreated and maybe that’s why but I think anybody can be in the trades, no matter what. It’s been so much fun. I thought I’d be tired and that it would be just like school but it’s not like school. I get to be here and I’m actually working instead of sitting at a desk, but I get to be very hands on, which is nice,” King said.

“We have eight girls right now and everyone seems pretty into it,” Potvin said. 

“We teach them health and safety that goes on in a shop and also teach them a bit of welding. I have them on a threading machine, torches, plasma cutters.”

“I think we need tradespeople. It doesn’t matter what you are, who you are. If you are interested in it, do it. Follow it. Ask questions, be into it. I don’t think it matters what you are, who you are, your age doesn’t matter. Get into the trades if you want to try it. If you have questions, come ask, find someone you know in the trades,” Potvin said.           

“They sometimes find they're a little bit nervous, it’s hot metal, but we’re making it really comfortable for them, making sure there’s nothing to be afraid of and they’re excelling,” said Larry Nelson, Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Union 800 welding and safety instructor and a retired ADSB shop teacher. 

“They're welding here, they’re cutting steel, they’re fully engaged. It’s been a great week so far.”

“We want to make sure that they are not afraid to go into the tech courses when they get into high school. There’s a huge demand for skilled trades nowadays. I think we’ve been lacking in promoting that for many years so now’s the time to really move forward with that,” Nelson said.

Students have been working on various projects such as manufacturing dog tags and weiner roasters as an introduction to welding and working with metal.

“I enjoy working with kids, in helping them achieve different things than they may normally do in their lives,” Nelson said.          

Two other ADSB welding camps are for male and female Indigenous students. 

One of them is currently being hosted at W.C. Eaket Secondary School for students from Serpent River, Blind River and the surrounding area from July 4 to 8. 

The second is being hosted at Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Union 800 the week of July 11 to 15.

There is still room for registrations for that particular camp for male and female Indigenous students, said Steve Burmaster, ADSB Co-op/Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program Pathways Coordinator.

Interested students may register by contacting the ADSB by email.

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Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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