Mind over Metal welding camp a huge success

There might have been some apprehension when the summer camp students first walked into the welding shop in St. Joseph High School in Edmonton, Alberta, but in short order, excitement soon took over and their attention was completely focused on all the arcs and sparks and their imaginations ran wild with all of the possibilities of turning metal into something cool.

“It was very encouraging seeing how their interest towards the welding profession increased as they were more comfortable and started to work on their projects,” said Deborah Mates, Executive Director of the CWB Welding Foundation. “There were moments when I noticed such great teamwork and how enthusiastic they were when they completed their projects that were completely moving. I’m very pleased at the success and positive feedback from parents, sponsors and everyone who helped out of the Foundation’s inaugural summer welding camp.”

The CWB Welding Foundation Mind over Metal welding camp was held August 4-8 and August 11-15, 2014 for at-risk students from grades 7-9. The camps were specially designed by Ken McKen, CWB Association Manager for Western Canada and St. Joseph High School welding and fabrication instructor Dayton Block.

“It was a great and rewarding experience teaching the kids all about the welding profession in a safe environment where they could explore and have fun with their creativity,” said Dayton Block. “The interest they showed towards welding was fascinating and the pride they had in their completed projects definitely put a smile on my face.”

Ken McKen was also impressed by the students’ passion for welding and their creative ability.

“For beginners who never donned a welding helmet before, they sure were engaged. And the creativity they showcased with the types of projects they welded was impressive. The kids had a blast and we had a great time teaching them so it was a win-win for sure.”

The two welding camps that were part of a pilot project funded by the CWB Welding Foundation are just the beginning as more camps will start up across the country over the next several years to further bring awareness to the vast opportunities in the welding profession.

Valerie Larocque, mother of Cheyanne, a camp attendee, said her daughter had a great time at the camp because of the hands-on component.

“She received a lot of knowledge from the camp,” she said. “Cheyanne really liked it and enjoyed herself. It was a great learning experience for her.”

Cheyanne, 12, a grade 7 student said her favourite part of the camp was meeting new friends, learning how to weld the different projects.

“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “I really enjoyed building the chandelier.”

Another parent, Norma Ann Power, mother of Levi who participated in the camp, said her 12-year-old son had a wonderful time.

“This was a great experience for our son Levi. He came home hooked on welding and for the next couple of days kept saying he wanted to weld. He has now started on a tool collection - we have been buying tools for him and he is anxious to start working in the garage and making things,” she said. “He found some wire around the house and was making it into shapes and we bought him a shouldering iron. We appreciated the hands on experience and the education the camp provided to him and his friends. I think the boys gained confidence in their ability to be in a shop environment and work with their hands and with a variety of tools.”

Levi, a grade 8 student, said one of his best experiences at the camp was when he looked at the sun through the welding helmet.

“That was really cool,” he said. “I had a lot of fun. I met new friends and I had a really fun time making musical notes out of steel.”

Another Mind over Metal camper Matthew Kootenay, 16, a grade 10 student enrolled at St. Joseph High School, said he had a lot of fun at the camp and it helped inspire him to look towards the future and pursue a career in the welding profession.

“This was my time welding. I came to this school because I wanted to be a welder and this camp really helped me understand more about welding,” said Kootenay. “I really enjoyed it. MIG and Stick welding were my favourite. I want to be an underwater welder when I get older.”

Leo J Stevens, 15, another student at St. Joseph High School who also participated in the camp said it was also his first time welding and his experiences are very similar to his friend Matthew.

“I really enjoyed the camp a lot,” he said. “I made a few cool things for myself and my family and I made a lot of new friends.”

Although it was his first time with a welding torch in his hand, the grade 10 student wants to pursue a career in structural welding.

“Thank you so much for the great and valuable opportunity the Mind over Metal Summer Camp has given to our two foster children: Matthew and Sam,” Roda Rodriguez, foster mother of Matthew and Sam who also was at the camp. “They were thrilled and full of excitement each day that they attended the camp.  Matthew has long set his heart on becoming a welder and for Sam, who is still wondering what training he'll take someday, has an interest in welding now.  This is something very positive for my foster children.  I do hope that there is one again next summer. Thank you all again for the opportunity and all the great efforts you put into this beautiful program.”

All of the positive feedback from parents and campers was very encouraging, and it provides a solid foundation to host more welding camps in the near future, said Mates.

“Hearing all the great anecdotes from the kids during their time at the camp and wonderful words from parents really makes this all worthwhile and gives us a positive reason to continue and expand the camps. At the end of the day, seeing firsthand how the camp provided them with a platform to express their creativity while meeting new friends and understanding the great opportunities in the welding profession was the goal.”