A weeklong welding camp has given Allison Holcik the confidence learn the trade, something she wasn’t entirely comfortable with before.
Kwantlen Polytechnic University hosted a one-week welding camp, Arx & Sparx, at the Cloverdale campus Aug. 12 to 16. It was for students aged 12 to 15, with a focus on recruiting Indigenous students, to introduce basic welding skills.
The free camp was developed by CWB Welding Foundation and is funded by LNG Canada.
Allison, who’s going into Grade 11 at Walnut Grove Secondary in Langley in September, said she already does metalwork on the side at her high school.
“I kind of wasn’t comfortable with working there (at school) just because there’s not as much one-on-one time and it can be difficult to learn if you don’t have the teacher there helping you, especially if it’s something with heat and it’s kind of dangerous.”
She said the group of students were separated into groups of four, and while there was one teacher overseeing the entire camp, each group of four had its own teacher.
The groups’ teachers allowed for more one-on-one time with instructors, said Allison, adding that the teacher would be there whenever she needed it. “It made it so I was a lot more comfortable with learning.”
Allison Holcik watches as instructor Robert Armstrong helps her with the mounted deer head students were creating at KPU’s Arx & Sparx weeklong summer camp. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
The course, she said, was “really fun.”
“Basically from the first day we jumped right in,” said Allison, adding that the students first learned safety and shortly after began welding. “It was crazy; straight away you get going.”
The 16 students in the camp made a project each day, such as a mounted deer head, a staircase with animals on each step and a bear in the trees. Instructor Al Sumal said he was impressed with what the students were able to do in the first four days of the camp.
“Especially some of them who have never worked in an industrial environment, in a welding shop and who didn’t even know how to read a tape measure,” said Sumal who isalso the head of the welding department.
Despite the students’ confidence levels, Sumal said he was nervous the first day,
“It’s just been a step-by-step (process). On day one, I was quite nervous, to be honest with you, because it is the first camp,” he said. “It’s my vision to do this, but I did not want to see any of these boys and gals get hurt. They’re in an industrial environment and things could go horribly wrong in a second.”
The idea for the camp has been in the works for four years, Sumal said. Every year, he said, there’s a one-day trade fair at Sungod Recreation Centre in Delta and there’s an opportunity for kids to “try a trade.”
“In 2015, I had a young mom with two small kids (stop by) and this one little boy was just standing there and she was saying, ‘Come on, let’s go.’ He was so fascinated by what was going on. I went up to him, and I said, ‘Do you want to try?’” He said, ‘Sure.’ That was the youngest kid that I actually dressed up to try and weld,” said Sumal, adding that the child would come back each year to try it.“That gave me something to think and plan about.”
Sumal said that he finally secured funding last year through the Canadian Welding Bureau (CWB), but it was too late to offer a summer course. Then this year, LNG Canada came through with funding, allowing it to be a free course.
Brian Moukperian, the dean of the faculty of trades and technology, said part of his vision is that KPU Tech offers a number of camps.
This Arx & Sparx camp, he said, is the first attempt “to see what it would look like.”
“We see this as the first foray into it and it’s been a great success,” he said. “Look at these projects, I mean, who would have thought that these kids who had no idea about welding could start it and weld like that. We are, really, just delighted with the early success.”