May 01, 2019
LNG Canada funds Arc and Spark welding camp for Kitimat youth
There’s a buzz of excitement in the workshop as youth, aged 11-17 years old, prepare to wrap-up Arc and Spark, a week-long welding camp in Kitimat.
The camp, funded by LNG Canada and developed and facilitated by the CWB Welding Foundation (CWBWF) at the Kitimat Valley Institute (KVI), brought together Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth from the local communities to learn about the welding trade and gain some hands-on welding experience.
“I never thought of myself as much of a hands-on person,” says Gemma Rigoni, a participant in the welding camp. Like Gemma, many participants were unfamiliar with the trade at the start of the week.
“By introducing young people to trades training programs while they are still in school, we hope they’ll be left with a positive impression and consider pursuing trades certification when they graduate,” said Tracey MacKinnon, LNG Canada’s Workforce Development Manager.
Funding Arc and Spark is part of LNG Canada’s long-term workforce development strategy to increase participation in trades training and address labour shortages.
During the week-long camp, students learn about welding safety, gas metal arc welding, an introduction to weld symbols and a brief overview of the impact welding has on our daily lives. Once the theoretical portion is completed, students have fun by putting their practical welding skills to the test. They create projects based on seven cultural teachings focused on: the turtle, bear, beaver, sasquatch, bison, eagle and wolf.
Cultural awareness is an important aspect of the Arc and Spark camp. The camp opens with a welcome from the Haisla, the local First Nations community in Kitimat, and elders are present through the week to provide learnings and cultural context. Connecting the projects that the students work on to the local culture and for some, their own identity, is a key priority of the camp.
“Engaging in truth and reconciliation is important. It’s interesting to see how that can tie into working in the shop,” said Dayton Block, a welding instructor at Arc and Spark. “Each morning, we have a chance to deliver a teaching, which is culturally significant. And then when the students work in the shop, their projects are related to that teaching.”
Tanya Rexin, President and CEO of KVI says this is a valuable experience for youth to gain exposure to the trades and welding, while incorporating Indigenous teachings and art. “This unique program allows local students to gain a better sense of who they are, what they want to do with their future and to learn more about the Haisla Nation.”
Camp volunteer Jayden Desjarlais says the most memorable part of the week has been the elders coming in to teach lessons and shares stories. “I love helping kids and sparking that interest in them. I think some of them might see this as a potential career.”
“This camp is specifically designed to provide young people with hands-on introduction to welding and inspire them to pursue a career in welding. Students build confidence and have fun while being supervised by professionals in a safe environment,” said Susan Crowley, executive director at CWBWF.
The foundation, a national not-for-profit charitable organization, works with partners to support and sustain the need for skilled welding tradespeople and professionals in the workforce.
As the camp comes to a close with a graduation ceremony, many of the students reflect on the past week with a new sense of confidence.
“The landscape we did was my favourite because it goes along with the seven teachings,” said participant Sativa Parnell. “I think I want to become a welder.”
“It’s been a really neat week. I didn’t think I’d be able to weld or anything,” says Gemma Rigoni. “I’m really thankful they put it on.”
Hennessy Parnell, another participant in the camp said it was fun to use your imagination and build something out of metal. “Any trade is a good thing to take because that can help you down the road in your life. Some people who took this camp most likely will be a welder. They’ve found a passion for it and they’re good at it. I could totally see myself doing it in the future.”
Dayton Block looks at his new Arc and Spark graduates with a sense of pride. “Once students have the basic skillset and they have the confidence in themselves that’s when I know we’re doing our job right,” he said. “I think this [camp] is a shining example of how industry can positively impact young people. If one or two are influenced to walk into the trade and pursue welding, that’s a win.”
LNG Canada is funding an additional six Arc and Spark camps that will be held throughout B.C. over the summer. KVI has been confirmed as one of the locations; the timing and locations of the other additional camps will be confirmed later this spring.
The CWB Welding Foundation hosted its first welding camp in Edmonton in the summer of 2014, and to date has completed nearly 170 camps across Canada.