Students at Western Technical Commercial High School review Acorn welding program literatureClick image to enlargeThe Canadian Welding Bureau Group (CWB Group) has launched a national welding program to standardize welding education in Canada and help to fill the skilled trades gap by developing a new generation of highly skilled welders.

Acorn is considered the first-ever national end-to-end welding program in Canada that incorporates education, training and assessment.The welding shop at Western Technical Commercial High School where CWB Group's Acorn welding program was launchedClick image to enlarge

CWB Group officially launched Acorn at Western Technical Commercial High School in Toronto on May 19.Doug Luciani, CWB president, left, and Ian Campbell, director of marketing and new products at CWB GroupClick image to enlarge

CWB Group started to develop the welding education program in 2014. To date, the CWB Group has invested $2 million in what it's calling a "game changing" new welding curriculum that will help to create better welders.Grade 10 student Abigail LopesClick image to enlarge  Grade 10 student Monique SamuelsClick image to enlarge

"Canada's continued economic prosperity will require welding professionals, so investment in skills development has never been more important," says CWB president Doug Luciani. "We are confident that working with government, educators, and industry, we can ensure the Canadian welding industry remains a global leader."

The program will run under the CWBi, (Canadian Welding Group Institute). Ian Campbell, director of marketing and new products for the CWB Group, says the training program was designed to fill a welding skills education gap in the country.

"We decided to create a national curriculum because no one else has done it. Being funded by industry, we wanted to figure out a way to deal with the shortage of welders our industry faces. We recognized too that the certification process and the welding tickets people get with it is a go/no go approach. Certification is focused on making a weld but it doesn't test other elements that make for a good welder, such as can a welder read a blueprint, can he think in a logical way to work through a welding problem."

Acorn is comprised of five parts that provides information on trade awareness, pre-employment (information to get all welders to a uniform level of skill), industry specialization (e.g. knowledge about a specific industry such as aerospace or automotive), skills specialization (industry-specific welding skill requirements) and skills upgrade.

The learning is available via three platforms: in-class practice and theory, online practice and theory, or a hybrid that combines in-class practice with online theory. Delivery is through education partners; high schools with welding programs (offered for free via the CWB Foundation), post secondary schools with welding programs. Applicant schools must go through an application process and on-site facilities audit before being approved to deliver Acorn program. The process helps to ensure that Acorn delivers what it is supposed to: a standardized national program to create a new pool of highly skilled welders, says Campbell.

He adds Acorn has been well received by the technical educational community.

"The Skilled Trades College of Canada has looked at it and think it's great and I've spoken to most Ministers of Education across Canada who think it's a good idea. We have shown the program to companies in the US and in Europe who would like to adopt Acorn.

"Acorn is learning for the 21st Century. We threw everything out that we had before and started completely from scratch to create a complete program designed for ages 12 years through to adults for a life-long, on-going skills development."

Grade 10 Western Technical Commerical student Abigail Lopes takes is taking an auto body course and thought welding would be good to know as part of the trade. "Now that I'm welding, I love it and may even consider it as a separate career."

Monique Samuels is another grade 10 student at Western Technical Commercial High School who attended the Acorn launch. She's not taking welding now, but says she plans to in grade 11 because it looks interesting.

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