SHOP: When the CWB was established more than seven decades ago, its primary purpose was to administer the newly formed national welding standards. Since then, the CWB Group’s scope of responsibilities has grown considerably. What are the most important issues CWB Group is addressing today, and to you see that evolving over the next decade?
LUCIANI: The CWB Group is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. We started just after WWII to encourage confidence in the construction industry in welding as a joining process by employing an industry certification program of people, products and companies that remains fundamental to what we do today. As we grew as an organization, part of our evolution was to promote the role of standards that drive public safety and quality and help grow the welding and joining industry in Canada. We are heavily involved in welding standards, not only in Canada but in the U.S. and internationally. Canadian companies are affected by international standards when dealing with international customers, so we want to influence those standards and also bring any learning back to Canada. In terms of the most important issues we are addressing, the number one issue our customers face today is that they can’t find skilled welding personnel or those with the skills they need. The labour skills shortage and gap are significant challenges for our customers. People are retiring, and there are not as many people entering our industry to offset that impact. Covid made it even more of an acute issue because we had individuals reassessing what was important to them, and some have decided to retire early. This is a demographic challenge not just in Canada but around the world, and it’s an issue we will all have to deal with for many years. The other thing we are focused on is how we can help our customers become more efficient. Canada is a relatively small country economically, so our customers must be competitive not just within our borders but globally. How we can help make our customers more efficient and productive is a challenge and an opportunity for them and us. The third item would be how technology is or could be impacting our customers. How can they imbed new technology to help themselves be more productive and efficient in addition to aiding in the labour skills shortage and gap? This will become even more important with the continued implementation of new materials and/or new welding processes and joining methods, and those are the things we will continue to deal with for the foreseeable future.
SHOP: This summer CWB Group announced a strategic affiliation with EWI. What is the thinking behind this alliance, and how does it benefit CWB Group and its members?
LUCIANI: One of the areas we as an organization continue to focus on is how we can continue to provide a wider array of products and services to help customers solve their welding and joining challenges, in addition to helping them identify opportunities where they can implement new technologies and become more effective and efficient. We have a number of capabilities at CWB Group in supporting our customers but helping them with advanced engineering challenges was an area we wanted to add to the already broad array of our service offerings. EWI has those and many more capabilities that will significantly complement our existing services to the industry, and as such, I am super excited about the affiliation agreement we recently announced. The complementary nature of what EWI offers really allows CWB Group and EWI to provide end-to-end solutions to our customers, not only today but for many years to come.
SHOP: Much has been written, discussed, and debated about the skills shortage. In your view, what are we doing wrong or not doing enough in trying to attract people to the welding profession?
LUCIANI: When people like me were all much younger, there were shop classes we could all take in high school. Those classes started to go away as schools placed more of a focus on non-trades-related education. This wasn’t unique to Canada, but the impact of this was that we saw fewer people viewing the trades as a viable career. This, obviously, is a problem for our industry today, but it has been many years in the making. We started the CWB Welding Foundation to address this problem, which next year will be celebrating its 10th anniversary. The first thing we wanted to do was encourage high schools that weren’t offering welding programs to consider doing so. Some of those which were offering welding programs were struggling because there wasn’t the investment for training the teachers or the equipment required to attract and train the next generation of welding personnel. You can probably imagine that if the environment in which you’re going to weld isn’t that attractive, you’re likely not going to see a lot of people in the program. So, our Foundation got involved in supporting high schools with funding along with many partners across Canada to ensure the schools have the latest technology in equipment, and the transformation has been amazing. We now work with well over 300 high schools across Canada with the goal of attracting more people into the welding industry. Another challenge we are addressing is the educational material that is used at schools. We have been developing traditional in-person, hybrid and online training material for years that has resulted in the best-in-class global welding training curriculum and we train the teachers to effectively use it. Covid led to a marked interest in online training, and with our features, such as simulation and 3D models, it really engages the students and provides a more effective training experience. Lastly, our Foundation puts on many complementary welding camps across Canada for a wide variety of different stakeholder groups (e.g., young people, and under-represented groups) to expose them to the amazing world of welding and how it can be a viable career for them in the future.
SHOP: CWB Group held its first virtual Welding Industry Day during the pandemic. Will you continue to provide this post pandemic?
LUCIANI: It definitely will be part of our standard offerings going forward. Coming out of Covid, there are many people who want to get back to a face-to-face environment because that’s what they enjoy and they find it more effective, but there is still a substantial amount of people who want the ability to connect and interact remotely in a virtual event. So, you are going to see us continue to do that. It is more challenging and requires more investment to offer both options, but it also provides a tremendous opportunity to support and increase the interaction we have with our industry.