The Dryden Observer

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Sparks fly

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.
Grade 12 student Jeremy Olson was one of a dozen students who partook in the two-week welding introduction course at the Domtar Mill, which gained them both high school and college credits. Photo by Jon Thompson

Hands-on opportunities reveal career paths for DHS students interested in trades

Some students learn best from books and for others, their minds get cracking when the sparks start to fly.

Ten Grade 12 students blazed their way through a two-week welding techniques course at the Domtar Mill in February. Designed as an exit plan for students who may be interested in trades, they received both high school tech and college credits while they were exposed to the hands-on flavour of college curriculum.

“I think the real selling feature of a program like this is students are getting a real look at the connection between what they learn in school and the real working world,” said Brad Bartlett, the vice principal of Dryden High School. “They see other men and women working here and maybe they can see a vision for themselves in the future.”

Mackenzie Cameron is dipping her toe in her older brother’s footsteps, trying on the trade to see if it fits. She has been accepted to welding programs at three colleges and having her foot in the door with a credit at the regional college has bolstered her confidence.

“This is definitely a mind-blowing experience,” she expressed. “I’ve noticed in our school, we don’t have a lot of subjects on welding. This is just straight-up welding. You learn everything about it… Taking this course definitely made me realize I want to step forward with this.”

Confederation College’s Bob Hall returned to instruct the course in its second year, having been pleasantly surprised at the genuine ambition in his first-ever class of both rural and high school students. When his 2013 class asked him to extend the course an hour on Friday, he counter-offered to open an hour-and-a-half early. The students arrived as early as they could, every single day.

“This is an ideal time to be getting into welding because of the potential around this area, especially with the mines that are coming online. When the mines are online, there’s going to be a tremendous shortage of welders,” he explained.

A colleague encouraged Hall to apply for a job posting in the Philippines that would see him training welders who would then come to Canada for work in the mining sector. Having welded in Europe as well as all over North and South America, Hall has no nationalist bent but he chose to stay and train the youth of Northwestern Ontario as the regional development wave gathers on the horizon.

“When I first came over here, there wasn’t even an apprenticeship program. Now it’s different. Now things are changing. We have our own young people that are like sponges. They want to learn so let’s get them all the help we possibly can. Not to say we don’t give other people a hand but let’s look after our own young people too – maybe first. “

By Jon Thompson

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