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TOP OF THE TRADES

Jonathan Bennett: Welding a solid future in Ontario's trades

By Dorothea Helms
Special to The Toronto Sun

He's calm, cool and collected -- characteristics that Jonathan Bennett claims are important

to being a good welder. The owner of Canadian Welding Skills
( www.weldingskills.com), a private welding instruction business he operates in Bridgenorth, Bennett has been a welder for three decades.

He encourages young people to consider going into the trade. "You won't have trouble finding a job. There's a severe shortage of welders out there. In fact, it's common for students to be offered employment before the welding course is over."

There are some college courses available, or those interested may opt for private instruction, which is typically shorter in duration and offers smaller class sizes. "The welding apprenticeship program in Ontario is being totally revamped," Bennett says, "and will be operative in the near future."
"Being multitrained gives you flexibility," says Jonathan Bennet of Canadian Welding Skills.


It was 1972 when Bennett first took welding in high school at Crestwood Secondary in Peterborough. "I grew up on a farm, and was always fascinated by it. My high school teacher was a natural -- he instilled confidence in people."

After that, Bennett attended college in Toronto, but says the course didn't prepare him properly for employment. "There was a lot of emphasis on things like English and drafting, and not nearly enough actual welding. It did help me get my first job, though."

Jonathan went to work for a Whitby firm as an aluminum MIG welder. From there, he obtained experience in several jobs and moved back to Peterborough.

"Early in my career I found out that a lot of welds were substandard. I was asked more and more by management to repair other welder's workmanship, which annoyed me at the time. I just wanted to weld -- but now I realize it was preparing me for training."

By the late 1980s, he saw a need for private instruction, and in 1993 registered his business called Bennett Welding Skills. "I got so many inquiries from people outside Ontario that I changed the name to Canadian Welding Skills." Jonathan has trained people from as far away as Quebec, BC and the Cayman Islands.

Although there are dozens of welding processes, there are four major types in demand: S.M.A.W. (Shielded Metallic Arc Welding, or Stick welding); G.M.A.W. (Gas Metallic Arc Welding, or MIG welding); F.C.A.W. (Flux Core Arc Welding) and G.T.A.W. (Gas Tungsten Arc Welding). Jonathan's advice -- learn as many as you can. "Being multitrained gives you flexibility."

He explains that because there aren't many operational welding shops in high schools today, most young people aren't exposed to what can be a lucrative career. "An entry-level welder with no experience can make $12 to $14 an hour. A good pressure pipe welder can make over $30 an hour."

With class sizes held at a maximum of five, Jonathan is more of a tutor than an instructor. Canadian Welding Skills is an associate member of the Welding Schools of Ontario -- an organization established last year to exchange ideas and techniques, and attract more young people into welding.

"Remember," Bennett says, "Baby boomers make up about 35% of today's workforce -- and they'll be heading out to cottage country in the next few years as they begin to retire. Young men and women should consider a welding career. Women in particular have a high patience level and fine motor skills, so they make excellent welders."

Jonathan stresses that welding is a great job. "I know it sounds like I'm painting a warm fuzzy picture," he says, "but there's no bad stuff involved -- except for the dirt you wash off at the end of the day."

(Dorothea Helms (writer@wsws.ca) is an internationally published freelance writer who co-owns a communications firm with her husband.)





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