I never wanted to learn welding. Then one day my boss Vern handed me a MIG gun. “Get ’em all fixed, or don’t come back,” he said, slamming the office door behind him. It seemed I hadn’t been paying attention to the stamping press, and several hundred of the corners I’d just notched in some pulley guards were decidedly too large. I spent the next three weeks fitting and welding the bits of scrap steel collected from the bottom of the press back into place, grinding the pulley guards smooth and then notching the corners all over again.
Vern taught me several hard lessons that summer, one of which was to respect the welding department. Stick, MIG, TIG—it’s all tough work, a skill that requires a keen eye, steady hand and plenty of practice. Granted, most welders don’t have to learn their trade as I did, but the road to welding mastery is still a long one, littered with endless pounds of welding coupons, filler material and wasted shielding gas.
Vocational schools and manufacturing companies have long borne the brunt of this expensive learning process, patiently guiding students through kilometers of test beads until welding competence is at last achieved. One of these is Miller Comprehensive High School, Regina, SK. Welding instructor Blair Bachelu trains over 300 high -school students each year, kids even younger than I was the day Vern slammed the door on me.
According to Bachelu, traditional welding instruction isn’t very effective. “It’s basically a lot of demonstration and handholding. In a class of 20 students operating out of six6 welding booths, it might take several days to get around to each one. You have to get them setup with initial adjustments, and then circle back to help fine-tune their technique as they go. It simply takes time.”
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