Mi'kmaw youth learn some new skills at welding camp

Oscar Baker III · CBC News · Mi'kmaw youth learn some new skills at welding camp | CBC News

Eight Mi'kmaw children and youth received hands-on welding training in the centre of their community last week. 

Elsipogtog First Nation, about 90 kilometres north of Moncton, hosted a week-long camp to introduce community members to the skilled trades. 

For 10-year-old Payden Augustine, it was about building confidence. 

"First day of camp it can be scary, it was really scary, but as you get more into the camp it's actually really fun," she said. 

She said she attended the camp because her mom wanted her to know what other career options she could have, aside from becoming a hockey star.

She said she was afraid of the sparks at first but as the camp went on she had fun making a cowbell and tags. 

Payden Augustine, 10, took part in the camp and made a cowbell and tags. (Oscar Baker III/CBC)

The Mind Over Metal camp was a partnership between Elsipogtog, the Joint Economic Development Initiative and the CWB Welding Foundation. 

Laura MacFarlane, the Indigenous project apprenticeship co-ordinator at JEDI, said the program was about introducing the apprenticeship pathway to Indigenous youth. She said she hopes it leads to more red seal Indigenous tradespeople someday. A red seal certification is the highest designation a tradesperson can receive.

"We're really excited when someone succeeds and to bring Indigenous people into good jobs and career paths," said MacFarlane, who is Mi'kmaw from Metepenagiag Mi'kmaq Nation. 

She said the camp offered safety training, hands-on welding experience and a presentation by Skills Canada. The five-day camp cost roughly $3,000 a day and MacFarlane said she hopes the investment leads to more kids seeking careers in the skilled trades.

"I'm just beaming with pride as I see these kids come in," said MacFarlane. 

Kyron Lantz, 11, holds up a Batman batarang he made with a plasma cutter at the welding camp. Payden Augustine (right) also attended the camp. (Oscar Baker III/CBC)

Kyron Lantz said the camp was a fun and cool experience. The 11-year-old was able to make himself some Batman batarangs with a plasma cutter. 

"I never tried this before and it's so cool because you have to wear a mask and it's very dangerous," he said.

He worked under the supervision of Daniel Lemay, the welding instructor. Lemay said the group was engaged and had a sense of humour. 

"The smiles on their faces and the laughter and the camaraderie between the bunch and the banter — that's what made it a lot of fun," said Lemay. 

Journey Levi, 18, was a mentor for the youth attending the camp. Last year she helped lay the wiring for the building that hosted the camp. (Oscar Baker III/CBC)

Journey Levi, 18, spent time mentoring the youth at the camp. She wanted the kids to know the trades are a great option.

She's attending courses at the New Brunswick Community College to become an industrial electrician and thought it was important to give back some of her time back to Elsipogtog. 

"When I was younger, I seen all these people giving back to the community and I dreamed of being like them," said Levi.

Levi was part of a community effort to build the Elsipogtog Trade Learning Center last year, so she said she thought it was fitting the building would host skilled trade camps.