Posted on: August 30, 2017
Throughout the month of July there was something quite different in the Trades and Technology building at TRU. The students were a little younger, the projects a little more colourful, and despite having a large welding bay on campus it couldn’t contain the enthusiasm shown for two weeks. All of these things were due to the Canadian Welding Association Foundation sponsored Mind Over Metal camps which took place from July 17th to July 28th.
The first week of the program was geared to young male participants (ages 12 to 15) and the second week focused on female participants (ages 12 – 15). The camps allowed the youth to learn, practice and use hands on skills in a welding environment in hopes to open up a world of trades as a potential career to the young participants.
Mind Over Metals welding camps started as a pilot project through the CWAF in 2013 and by 2017, the project has grown to 55 camps across Canada with a lot of interest and potential for growth. The camp allows females and males alike to discover a prospective future in trades through hands on practice, skills and experiences. With females filling very few positions of the current welding jobs in Canada, there is a focus to introduce young women to trades in hopes to build awareness of potential career options in trades to available to them.
Trent Konrad, curator for all Mind Over Metal camps across Canada has expressed the importance of having girls experience the camp at a young age and the difference it can make. “I think a lot of the girls come in a little timid but once they get going into welding they cut loose and have a great time. A lot of the instructors are female too so they have a role model they can look up to and I think they can really start envisioning themselves doing that.”
The introduction has obviously had a lasting impression on some of the girls who were introduced to the pilot project in 2013 and are now attending school for welding apprenticeships. Based on this success there is a plan to expand the program to women as well as girls. Konrad continued, “A big focus for us is to engage not only young women but women in general. Maybe it’s a new career or a different aspect, but we really want women to know they can do it. Right now in Canada women make up five per cent of all welders and that’s pretty small. There’s a reason behind that and we think engaging women to at least consider it as a career is a big part of it.”
As welding is the groundwork for many trades careers including pipefitting, iron working and boiler making, the camp is able to create awareness of the possibility of many trades careers for women interested in pursuing further education. Financial support for the camp was provided by the CWAF and RBC provided funding for the welding helmets for the youth. Another important part of the success of the camps were the amazing instructions, volunteers and their families. The program ended with a celebratory barbeque recognizing all those who made the camps such a wonderful experience for the students..
After two weeks on campus the notoriety of having the young students around wore off, and in place of the surprise of seeing youth on campus in full welding gear, came the awe of seeing their creativity bloom. Metal roses were made, owls were welded, horseshoes were melted into hearts, and lasting friendships were formed. It may have been only one week of the youth’s summer being spent in the shop, but with any luck we’ll be seeing these same girls a few years down the road in the same shops, with the same tools, but with a textbook under their arm and a great career in front of them.