Sparks fly as teen girls introduced to welding trade

Thursday, July 28, 2016

CBC News

'Anything the boys can do, girls can do better'

Sparks are flying in a good way at St. Clair College this week as several young girls get their first taste of the welding trade.

The girls, aged 12-15, are participating in the Mind over Metal welding camp. It's one of several similar summer camps organized across the country by the Canadian Welding Association Foundation to teach female students the basics of the welding industry.

Wednesday, the team was able to get out of the classroom and into the shop. Wearing green welding jackets and safety gloves, they confidently used their torches to make small metal items.  

"A lot of women feel [welding] isn't their job and they should leave it to the men, but really anybody can do it," said 14-year-old Rachel Spect. "Even if you're not the strongest person — if you can wield a torch, you can weld.

"The more experience I can get doing new things, the more experience I'll get when I'm older," she said.

The girls could be part of a new cohort of welders needed to sustain the industry, explained Deborah Mates, the welding association foundation's executive director. She said welding is a major part of any manufacturing process and "thousands" of welders will be needed across Canada in the future.

"There are great opportunities in the future for welding, particularly with the aging population and the expectancy for skilled trades shortages, there's a need there. And new projects [are] being developed all the time with welding as a main component," Mates said. "Women make very good welders."    

Mates said women have all the skills needed to weld and the foundation is actively looking to recruit them into the industry.

Women make up less than five per cent of the roughly 22,000 welders in Canada, according to the latest available information from Statistics Canada. But that's almost double the percentage of women in the welding workforce nearly 30 years ago.

Ava Ryan-Soderlund, 13, said she's interested in the trade. She said there's no reason women cannot do the same jobs as men.

"I honestly think women should be able to do whatever job they want," she said. "Anything the boys can do, girls can do better."

This is the third summer the Canadian Welding Association has held a summer welding program for young women. It began as a pilot project in 2014 in Edmonton and has grown to more than 35 camps in every province across Canada.