With dozens of trades short on skilled workers, the Greater Victoria School District is looking to inspire students to pursue different industries for work – metalwork, in particular.
At the start of July, the district hosted a welding camp at Spectrum Community School for 12- to 15-year-olds, as part of an initiative by the Canadian Welding Association Foundation to introduce more students to potential careers in metalwork. The free camp originated in Edmonton in 2014, with 2016 being its first year in Greater Victoria.
Welding instructor John Reid said he jumped at the opportunity to run the camp after meeting with members of the CWA at a conference in Vancouver last October.
“It became clear that the foundation was sponsoring summer camps and they have equipment grants, and they offered that,” said Reid. “They didn’t have anybody for Victoria or the lower part of the Island, and they really wanted to break ground here, so that’s how that got started.”
Over the course of the week, the youth designed several projects, including dog tags, a welding log, a cowbell and a figurine made of nuts and bolts. Reid and a group of volunteers taught the kids how to use everything from a Whitney punch and a hacksaw to a plasma cutter.
“They seem just blown away by the fact that they can do this, that it’s not being done by a machine or somebody twice their age,” said Reid. “They seem really excited by that.”
Reid said the camp’s 20 spots were quickly filled, with an even mix of boys and girls making up the weeklong camp.
“We always want to try to encourage girls in all of our trades,” he said. “We have shy boys and we have shy girls, but we have just as many super keen, confident girls jumping on as we do boys.”
Gracie Threlfall and Elaysia Leddy, both 13, signed up for the camp after hearing about it from their respective shop classes before the end of the school year.
“I’ve always enjoyed doing stuff with my hands,” said Threlfall. “My mom’s an artist, my dad’s a carpenter, my grandpas both do stuff like this, so I’ve kind of grown up around it.”
“I didn’t really have an interest in it in the beginning, but it turned out to be quite cool,” said Leddy. “It’s fun – you get to learn a lot.”
While neither have seriously considered welding as a career, Reid said the important part is presenting metalwork as a career option, in case kids do find a lasting interest in it.
“Whether it’s a hobby in their future or if it turns into a career, we’re happy either way,” he said. “We don’t want these skills to die out – we don’t want there to only be a fraction of the people that we need doing it.”