“You never know until you try.” Everyone knows the saying, but there’s a reason why adages stand the test of time. Trying something new can break stigmas and help you learn something about yourself that you didn’t expect. That was a 15-year-old female high school student’s attitude after seeing a poster for one of the CWB Welding Foundation’s (Foundation) March break Mind Over Metal™ Camps.
Ayva Siokalo stumbled upon one of the welding camp posters hung in her New Brunswick secondary school. She was initially drawn in by the prospect of trying something outside of what she was typically interested in. As a self-professed “theatre kid,” she quickly discovered a passion for welding despite her initial apprehension. Eventually, she went on to compete at Skills Canada New Brunswick, an experience she didn’t foresee until she gained confidence through the welding camp.
“I thought the Mind Over Metal camp at Leo Hayes High School was awesome. I really liked it,” Ayva said of her positive experience. “Even on day one, when we were laying beads, I had so much fun.”
Going into the camp, Ayva believed a welding gun in her hand would spell disaster for herself and those around her. Still, after guidance from the supportive instructors onsite, she discovered she was more capable than expected. After the camp, instructors gently nudged her to compete in the upcoming Skills Canada New Brunswick competition. Even though she felt like she lacked experience, Ayva found the competition welcoming and engaging.
“It was a nice environment. It didn’t feel like there was any pressure, even though it was a competition,” she said. “I’m not sure how I placed since they only grade the top three contestants, but I don’t think I came in last. I’d absolutely do it again!”
Ayva’s mom, Krystal, who supported her daughter’s interest in welding, says seeing her try something new and end up competing in a major competition was unexpectedly “amazing.”
“She came home with a poster and asked if I could sign her up. It wasn’t something I thought she would be interested in, but it opened many doors and showed her there are opportunities outside of university. I’ve been telling people that if you have a 12- to 17-year-old at home, get them to experience a Mind Over Metal camp and see where it goes.”
Experiences like Ayva’s are one of the main reasons the CWB Group and the CWB Foundation develop and deliver welding-related programs to teach a variety of audiences this unique trade. It is no secret that a labour shortage exists in Canada’s trades. Exposing more groups of people to the world of welding can help strengthen the labour market and provide rewarding career opportunities to those who may otherwise face barriers to training.
The CWB Foundation runs a number of programs aimed at introducing welding to diverse audiences, including Arx and Sparx, a hands-on program designed to be inclusive of Indigenous youth ages 12 to 17. The curriculum combines welding instruction with cultural teachings and support from local Indigenous communities. Their Women of Steel™ program, aimed at women and those identifying as non-binary, features virtual and in-person learning with hands-on experience in a flexible environment led by experienced instructors.
The CWB Group also works with a range of community organizations, such as those focusing on racialized communities, newcomers and refugees, to introduce them to welding skills while ensuring the participants are supported with other related community services.
By delivering programs specifically attuned to diverse audiences’ needs, we can break down barriers to learning and training in the skilled trades. In turn, this will help bring in new talent and foster the next generation of skilled professionals.
Impact At a Glance
- Nearly 400 welding programs have been delivered across Canada to date, including over 100 in rural and remote locations.
- 30% of Mind Over Metal™ Camp participants identify as female.
- Over 80 youth camps targeted Indigenous youth, including specialized curriculum with cultural considerations, projects and guest speakers.
- Over 5,000 youth have participated in Mind Over Metal™ and Arx and Sparx camps, with 60% reporting interest in continuing to learn about welding-related careers.
- 34 Women of Steel™ programs have been completed, supporting 352 participants in total.
- CWB’s Welder Competency and Credential Assessment Program (available in English, French and Ukrainian) supports newcomers in assessing their welding competencies against Canadian standards, and identifying requirements to work as a qualified welder in Canada.
For more information about Canada’s welding industry, visit: www.cwbgroup.org.