Testing their metal

Hanna Mugleston gets to work during Mind over Metal, a welding camp designed to introduce girls to the world of welding. The camp takes place this week at Prince Albert’s Saskatchewan Polytechnic Campus. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

When Hanna Mugleston walked through the doors at her first Mind over Metal summer welding camp she just wanted to try something different.

Now, she’s thinking it might be something she wants to do the rest of her life.

The 12-year-old Mugleston was one of 20 participants at the annual welding camp held at Prince Albert’s Saskatchewan Polytechnic campus this week. For her, it’s like seeing an entirely new world.

“I think being a welder would be really cool,” she said during a short break on Tuesday. “It would be something that I’d really, really like, to make stuff to sell it or to keep it.”

Introducing girls like Mugleston to the world of welding is the camp’s primary goal. Originally started by the Canadian Welding Association (CWA) four years ago, it gives prospective students a chance to get an up-close look at a trade, and perhaps help dispel some myths about it.

Although not all girls in attendance are thinking about becoming a welder, there’s still plenty of enthusiasm.

“I was really excited to try something new,” said 14-year-old Katrine Sinclair, who started coming with the goal of helping her dad with welding jobs on their farm. “I’ve done woodworking before, but this was just something different.”

On this day, most of the students are in the process of welding and decorating small metal boxes they’ll get to take home at the end of the week.

Instructor Tammie Pawlust, the Women in Trades and Technology Coordinator at Sask Polytech, said it’s encouraging to see each student come out of their shells and embrace the opportunity.

“Yesterday they were quiet and they weren’t really doing much. Now they’re getting more hands-on. They’re not as scared anymore and they’re trying new stuff,” Pawlust said. “Just in one day, you can see the difference it’s made for them.”

The 2018 camp is the first one following changes to the age classes. Pawlust said the goal was to get girls heading into high school to think about entering the trades before they graduate or even get to Grade 12. Providing them with visible role models is a big challenge (there are still a few male instructors since Pawlust couldn’t find enough women) but she’s hopeful that won’t be a problem in the future.

“They actually get to play with the tools, so they get rid of their fear and they get rid of a lot of the stigma that it’s just for guys,” she said. “They’re losing a lot of that which, whether they take welding or not, it’s just going to give them more confidence in anything else they do.”