Boilermakers Lodge 146, Not Just a Banner in Our Schools!

Boilermaker Local 146 partners with Calgary junior and senior high schools to help grow student interest in fabrication and welding programs

It has been ten years since Boilermaker Local 146 first partnered with Calgary junior and senior high schools to help grow student interest in fabrication and welding programs in the area. During this time, the Calgary Catholic School District, the Calgary Board of Education, the Conseil scolaire FrancoSud and the Boilermaker Union have benefitted greatly from this alliance. Since the start, the Boilermakers have donated volunteer time, equipment, consumables and provided funds to enhance programs and initiatives along with the teachers in these school districts and the schools have reciprocated by bringing their students, families, and staff to participate, learn, and engage in all aspects of the boilermaker trade.

Shawn Ouellette and Robert James pioneered Lodge 146’s partnership with the public school system. As Shawn Ouellette remembers: “The first time we had Boilermaker members go interact with schools it was Trent Konrad (Education Manager at CWB Group) reaching out to the Lodge. The Boilermaker Union has been part of the school community ever since they got involved with the fabrication program at Bishop O’Byrne High School; they have not looked back since.”

The initiative keeps growing! Over the years, Lodge 146 has been first through the chute for many scholastic partnerships: they were the first union to commit to the Welding Rodeo, (soon to be followed by the Ironworker and the Pipe-fitter union); they led the way in collaborating with the Canadian Welding Bureau Foundation for the first Calgary Mind Over Metal summer camps; not stopping there, in 2016, they brought members of the Industry, Career and Technology teachers together during the Calgary Teachers Convention for the first of the Put Down Your Grinder! seminars. 

Welding Rodeo

In 2010, the first Welding Rodeo, held at Archbishop O’Byrne High School, had 12 participants; the event grew steadily over the years, until, in 2016 it had to be moved to the Boilermaker Hall. Last year’s event welcomed over 44 participants with some teams coming from outside Calgary’s city limits. The Welding Rodeo is a friendly skills competition that showcases students’ technical, problem-solving and leadership abilities. Students participate in team challenges designed to test the practical skills required to be competitive in technology and trade occupations.

Mind Over Metal Welding Camp

The Welding Rodeo was the springboard to the summer welding camp, Mind Over Metal.

The first of these welding camps happened during the school year 2012—2013. The Boilermakers took the event and its expense in stride, providing financial support to meet camp needs—providing safety gear, consumables, and food enough to feed 16 kids, grade seven to nine. The first event has since been followed up with eleven other summer camps in the Calgary area. The camp is organized so Boilermaker members have opportunity to talk with kids outside of a work environment.

Put Down the Grinder!

The spectrum broadened when the Boilermakers, in association with the Canadian Welding Association, Canadian Welding Bureau Welding Foundation, Alberta Industry Training, ABSA, Miller, Lincoln and SAIT hosted a two-day professional development seminar, Put Down the Grinder!, for the 2016 Calgary Teacher’s Convention. This seminar accommodated all fabrication and welding teachers in Calgary that might be interested in trying the latest welding technology offered by industry leaders; as well they were introduced to the CWB’s ACORN program for welding and metalwork. This innovative seminar included lectures from welding and fabrication experts with tips and advice on successfully coaching students for their CWB tickets. However, the highlight for teachers was the hands-on time with the latest welding technology.

Kayla Van Der Molen, Pre-apprentice Instructor at Lodge 146, hit the anvil on the horn when she said: “As Boilermakers, we are very happy to get involved with young people through the different activities we present. We are proud of the donations we provide—whether it be time, resources, or financial sponsorship—to schools in the Calgary area. The lodge knows first contact with these young fabrication students is vital to our industry and elevates the quality of welding programs in our schools. We are always moved by the joy of young students discovering their affinity for the trade.”

Students, teachers, and stakeholders are lucky to have a union closely connected to the Calgary education community. Through its many initiatives, the Boilermaker Union is having a noticeable impact on young students, helping develop their desire for new skills in the welding and fabrication field. Through the collective efforts of the education staff at the union hall, the last ten years have witnessed a number of high school students become Boilermakers—strengthening the union and industry.

As Stephan de Loof observed after last year’s Welding Rodeo: “You know what sums it all up? To this day I do not get it, after each Welding Rodeo the members of the winning team gets a cowboy hat and a belt buckle, every other participant gets entered in a draw. The prize table is amazing! Going from safety gloves to a welding machine, but it is without fail there is always a student that will pick the Boilermaker’s hoody over the $2,000 welding machine because he wants to be able to wear it while walking the halls of his high school.”

Article and photos submitted by Boilermakers Lodge 146

Calgary Welding Rodeo at the Boilermaker Hall

Welding Rodeo Champions