There might have been some apprehension when the summer camp students first walked into the welding shop in St. Joseph High School in Edmonton, Alberta, but in short order, excitement soon took over and their attention was completely focused on all the arcs and sparks, while their imaginations ran wild with all of the possibilities of turning metal into something cool.
“It was very encouraging seeing how their interest towards the welding profession increased as they were more comfortable and started to work on their projects,” said Deborah Mates, Executive Director of the CWA Foundation. “There were moments when I noticed such great teamwork and how enthusiastic they were when they completed their projects that were completely moving.”
The inaugural CWA Foundation Mind over Metal welding camp was held August 4-8 and August 11-15 for at-risk students from grades 7-9. The camps were designed by Ken McKen, CWA Manager for Western Canada and St. Joseph High School welding and fabrication instructor Dayton Block.
“It was a great and rewarding experience teaching the kids all about the welding profession in a safe environment where they could explore and have fun with their creativity,” said Dayton Block.
Ken McKen was also impressed by the students’ passion for welding and their creative abilities.
“For beginners who never donned a welding helmet before, they sure were engaged. And the creativity they showcased with the types of projects they welded was impressive. The kids had a blast and we had a great time teaching them so it was a win-win for sure.”
The two welding camps that were part of a pilot project funded by the CWA Foundation are just the beginning as more camps will start up across the country over the next several years to further bring awareness to the vast opportunities in the welding profession.
Valerie Larocque, mother of Cheyanne, a camp attendee, said her daughter had a great time at the camp because of the hands-on component.
“She received a lot of knowledge from the camp,” she said. “Cheyanne really liked it and enjoyed herself. It was a great learning experience for her.”
Cheyanne, 12, a grade 7 student said her favourite part of the camp was meeting new friends and learning how to weld the different projects.
“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “I really enjoyed building the chandelier.”
Another parent, Norma Ann Power, mother of Levi who participated in the camp, said her 12-year-old son had a wonderful time.
“This was a great experience for our son Levi. He came home hooked on welding and for the next couple of days he kept saying he wanted to weld. We appreciated the hands on experience and the education the camp provided to him and his friends.”
Levi, a grade 8 student, said one of his best experiences at the camp was when he looked at the sun through the welding helmet.
“That was really cool,” he said. “I had a lot of fun. I met new friends and I had a really fun time making musical notes out of steel.”
All of the positive feedback from parents and campers was very encouraging, and it provides a solid foundation to host more welding camps in the near future, said Mates.
“Hearing all the great anecdotes from the kids during their time at the camp and wonderful words from parents really makes this all worthwhile and gives us a positive reason to continue and expand the camps. At the end of the day, seeing firsthand how the camp provided them with a platform to express their creativity while meeting new friends and understanding the great opportunities in the welding profession was the goal.”