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Trades competition in Calgary inspiring young skilled workers

A high school welding competition held in Calgary that is helping to promote skilled trades to the next generation of the labour force. Danina Falkenberg gives us a sneak peek of the competition.

By Danina Falkenberg

A high school welding competition held in Calgary is helping to promote skilled trades to the next generation of the labour force.

The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Lodge hosted the 8th annual Calgary High School Welding Rodeo Saturday, which included six school districts, making nine teams and 45 students in total.

Students like grade 12 student Lily Lang, who has been welding for a year, participated in the welding and metal fabrication skills competition.

“Watching yourself grow I think is probably the most rewarding aspect and probably why I love (welding) so much. It pushes me it helps me see what I’m really capable of,” Lang said.

“We’re really applying the skills that we’ve learned through the programs through our schools and we’re just applying the knowledge that we’ve gained.”

Kayla Vander Molen is a Red Seal pressure welder by trade and has been in the industry for just over 12 years. She is a pre-apprentice instructor with the boilermakers and says the competition introduces students to the industry.

“Just so they can see the kind of moral that we have the kind of environment that we have in the skilled trades, because unfortunately there’s still a negative stigma when it comes to trades culture and it’s no longer like that that is outdated,” Vander Molen said.

“So, when the students see that we are cohesive together and we work together and we lift each other up honestly that’s what we want to promote what we want to show.”

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Lang says for now she is doing it just for fun but is considering whether it’s something she would take on as a future career.

“Honestly, I thought it was a sewing class because I love to sew. So I was hesitant at first, I was ‘Oh welding I don’t know if that is for me.’ So I gave it a try and then I like fell in love with it a little bit,” she said.

Meanwhile, Vander Molen thinks career and technology studies are underfunded in high schools and that more money would mean more students are introduced to the trades.

“A lot more government funding into high schools would be very beneficial to fill that labour gap that we have and we are going to experience over the next 10 years.”

Ahead of budget 2024, the Alberta government says it’ll create thousands more apprenticeship seats across the province to support industry demand for skilled workers and economic growth.

The province says it would invest an additional $24 million a year over the next three years to create 3,200 apprenticeship seats at 11 Alberta post-secondary institutions.

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