Welding program gets big boost

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo Kaed Blake, left, a Grade 12 student participating in the welding program at Diamond Jenness Secondary School, gets some advice from Andrew Bartlett, the technical outreach officer with the Canadian Welding Association Foundation. Bartlett was in Hay River last week to officially present a donation to the school's welding program.

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Kaed Blake, left, a Grade 12 student participating in the welding program at Diamond Jenness Secondary School, gets some advice from Andrew Bartlett, the technical outreach officer with the Canadian Welding Association Foundation. Bartlett was in Hay River last week to officially present a donation to the school’s welding program.

The welding program at Diamond Jenness Secondary School has received a significant financial boost.

A representative of the Canadian Welding Association Foundation (CWA Foundation) flew up from Ontario to present a symbolic cheque for $50,000 to the school at an assembly on Feb. 26.

The funding – $5,000 a year for 10 years – comes from that foundation in partnership with the Marinucci Family Foundation.

Diamond Jenness is one of 10 high schools across Canada to receive the financial support.

Andrew Bartlett, the technical outreach officer for the CWA Foundation, made the presentation, while explaining the money could be used for whatever a welding program wants – upgrading equipment, buying supplies, training instructors or anything else.

“In visiting high schools across the country, we’ve noticed limited budgets at the high school level in welding programs,” he said, noting that lack of resources inhibits the schools’ ability to purchase new technology, new welding processes and personal protective equipment, such as helmets.

“We’re looking forward to the continued partnership over the next 10 years and are excited to see the improvements in the welding program as a result of this funding,” he told the assembled students. “So it’s a big thing.”

Speaking to The Hub following the presentation, Bartlett said the new funding went to schools in various regions of Canada.

“There’s probably in the area of 500 to 600 schools that offer welding programs,” he said.

Bartlett said Diamond Jenness was chosen after his research found it offers a successful welding program.

Tim Borchuk, the welding instructor and vice-principal at Diamond Jenness, was very pleased to receive the funding.

“It’s huge. With numbers declining in all the schools across the Northwest Territories and based on the formula funding – we’re funded based on the number of students – it gets pretty tough to operate a shop like this,” he said, explaining it offers welding, mechanics and wood construction.

Borchuk said he is proud Diamond Jenness was chosen for the funding.

“That’s pretty amazing when you think of all the high schools that are available across Canada,” he said, adding the funding will make it a lot easier to operate the welding portion of the trades shop.

About 20 to 30 students go through the welding program each year.

Eduardo Lau-a, one of those students, said it is good for the program to receive the funding.

“Money is always tight,” he said. “It would help.”

The Grade 12 student, who has been learning welding for three years, is considering it as a career when he graduates.

“I want to try something in trades, for sure,” he said. “Welding is my main choice.”

Another participant in the welding class, Grade 10 student Sean Smith, also welcomed the funding.

“I think it’s awesome,” he said, adding the extra money can enhance the program.

Along with Diamond Jenness, funding went to three schools in Alberta, and one each in British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan.

The funding for the 10 schools was originally announced in September.

Through the generous gift of the (Marinucci Family Foundation), we are able to offer 10 secondary schools across the country with the funds to provide their students with a better quality learning experience within their welding programs,” stated Deborah Mates, executive director of the CWA Foundation, in a news release at the time.

The schools were selected based on the history of a program, student success and recommendations from welding education experts.

The CWA Foundation, which is made up of a group of companies, considers the schools to have model welding programs.

The founder and chairperson of the Marinucci Family Foundation is John Marinucci, a member of the board of directors for the CWA Foundation.

Marinucci retired in 2009 as president and CEO of New Flyer, which builds buses, and previously served as president of National Steel Car.

“In those positions, he recognized the lack of skilled labour, essentially welding, across the country and decided to put his money where it counts and has partnered with the Canadian Welding Association Foundation to donate this money,” said Bartlett.

In a news release, Marinucci said, “We are excited to partner with the CWA Foundation to significantly enhance secondary school welding programs across Canada.”

Borchuk expressed his appreciation to the CWA Foundation and the Marinucci Family Foundation for the financial support, adding, “Because it’s going to make a big difference to our school.”

-Paul Bickford