Students at Western Technical Commercial High School in Toronto were part of the Acorn launch in 2015.Click image to enlargeby Michael Ouellette

From its inception in 1921 to its current form, skills training and education have been at the heart of CWB Group

The CWB group is celebrating its 100 year anniversary and it’s a story of an organization that was well ahead of its time in terms of what it hoped to achieve. 

Back in 1921, on March 15, the group’s first meeting was held in Montreal, marking the start of a skills training initiative that Canada didn’t know it needed until nearly a century after the group’s inception. 

Sparked by a desire to improve the processes and effectiveness of welders, the group, at its heart, was  a collection of welding industrialists and enthusiasts who saw the value in improving the welding capabilities of the industry, a mantra that is now the life blood of today’s CWB Group and its various initiatives. 

Back in the early 1940s, a group of welders got together to talk about a national welding standard in Canada. And these were industry people who wanted to make sure we developed standards that not only protected public safety but put Canada at the top of the world in terms of quality. The standard, developed and launched in 1947, became known as CSA W47, and it’s a standard that stretches across the globe. Any company exporting welded products into the Canadian marketplace must meet those standards, and representatives of the CWB go to those countries, certify the company, do welding testing and certify that their welding practices and procedures are suitable to send their products to the Canadian market, which we then export all over the world. 

“CWB Group is basically the organization that runs the welding certification business for Canada, and that has been in place since 1947,” says Dan Tadic, who led the Canadian Welding Association from 2009 until February 2020. 

Tadic joined the Hamilton, Ont. Chapter of what was then named the Canadian Welding Society in October 1979. The group then became part of the welding institute of Canada, and transitioned back to the Welding Society of Canada. It was largely funded by the federal government to do research into welding, but when the feds pulled the funding, there was little other revenue to sustain itself. 

At the time, there was no centralized leadership for the association, but it had strong chapter organizations across Canada’s major cities and those chapters connected and created a de facto association to ensure the mission carried on.

In 2008, the remnants of the Canadian Welding Society merged with the Canadian Welding Bureau and since then, CWB has made investments in the association to ensure it can continue doing the work it was meant to do. Tadic was hired in 2009 to lead the group, which since then has established itself as a major welding force around the globe, with industry partners such as Irving Shipbuilding, Seaspan, TransCanada Pipeline, Air Liquide, Praxair, and many made contributions to ensure the foundation can continue on its path of improving welding standards and skilled trades.

The welding shop at Western Technical Commercial High School where CWB Group's Acorn welding program was launched.Click image to enlargeAnd the group has stayed true to that mantra. Starting in 2010, CWB Group organized the first CanWeld conference in Collingwood, Ont. The nascent national event attracted about 100 people from across Canada and has since become a national yearly event, with this event scheduled tentatively (COVID permitting) for October 2021. This conference has become a premier welding event in North America and is known globally. 

“The association has really played a role in connecting industry, to create an environment of opportunities for industry to network and communicate and make business deals. I didn’t even know that business was that big of a part of this until years later when I would hear stories of people making deals together. I was actually blown away,” says Tadic. 

The 2014 event was a particularly momentous moment, organized together with the International Institute of Welding in Vancouver, the three day event was replete with speakers from Australia, China and South America, along with Canada and the U.S. It attracts industry attendees and speakers focused on engineering research and other high end topics on welding technologies, processes, equipment, research and the future of welding. 

“We are connected globally through the International Institute of Welding, which is comprised of representatives from 56 countries,” says Tadic. “When we have discussions about welding standards, Canada is at the top of the world without any doubt whatsoever. The compliments we get about our model of certification, oversight, inspection, testing, no one scrutinizes welding in the world like CWB does,” he says.

In 2012, CWB Group organized the first welding educators conference at the CWB Group headquarters in Milton. “At the time we did not have a strong relationship with colleges and universities across Canada. We had some strong relationships regionally but not across the country. And we didn’t know how big this was going to be. We ended up with 58 instructors attending that very first conference. They came from every province and territory and it was inspirational to us,” says Tadic.

At the end of that conference the teachers in attendance recommended that the CWB should be working towards a national standard for welding education. With about a $5 million, CWB group developed its educational arm, ACORN in 2014. It’s a digital training and teaching platform that has been adopted by more than half of the colleges and high schools in Canada. 

Not only that, but governing agencies for B.C., Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have signed on for all their colleges and high schools to use ACORN. It was developed internally, for welders by welders. And several countries around the world, such as Italy, have signed on to use it as well. 

It all represents a full circle for CWB Group, starting as an ad hoc association to improve welding in Canada to a nationwide certification and training organization recognized globally for its skills promotion and educational heft. A truly Canadian story. SMT

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