A new training and mentorship program in Kapuskasing is preparing high school students for careers as welders in an effort to fill a need in the industry and retain youth in the community.
Developed over the last two years, the initiative brings together partners from education, industry and the skilled trades to enhance the welding classes already available at Kapuskasing District High School (KDHS).
Rosane Parent, who's helping lead the new program, believes there's value in engaging youth from an early age.
"There's this thirst to learn with the kids when you do hands-on with them," said Parent, quality manager at Cloutier's Machine Shop. "It's not abstract anymore; it's not pretend."
Through the program, experienced welders go into the school to provide training on quality assurance measures in welding. Students learn how to read design plans, understand weld symbols, identify and resolve weld faults, and more.
That mentorship and enhanced training is designed to give students a greater chance of testing successfully for their Canadian Welding Board (CWB) tickets in both the metal-cored arc welding (MCAW) and shielded metal-arc welding (SMAW) methods.
Even in its nascent state, the program is already showing benefits. Students light up when they realize they can become competent at a skill that will lead to a career, Parent said.
Last year, one of the female high school students qualified for two tickets--the first time locally a female student had qualified.
"It's amazing when you look at how willing they are to learn and to apply immediately what they learn," Parent said. "And once they get it, it's amazing to see that reaction in their eyes: 'I can do this and I can do it now. I don't need to wait until I'm older.'"
Planning for the initiative began two years ago when John Longstreet, a certified inspector with CWB who frequently tests Kapuskasing students, approached Parent about finding ways to increase the students' success rates.
"Otherwise, it was touch-and-go if they would pass," Parent said.
As a person of First Nations heritage who's long worked within the Indigenous community, and in the welding industry, Parent set to work contacting key partners she thought would get involved. She was buoyed by the response.
Cloutier's has committed to training and mentorship, as well as offering students co-op placements at its shop, while Rayonier Advanced Materials donated $4,600 worth of equipment to the initiative. Rayonier also...